Visitation rights are afforded to the non-custodial parent in a situation involving divorce and child custody. The terms of visitation are laid out in what is called a “Child Visitation Agreement” or “Child Visitation Schedule.”

1) What Do Courts Consider When Setting Child Visitation Rights?

First and foremost, the court takes the child’s best interests into consideration, and will then consider other factors such as:

  • The age and the overall well-being of the child.
  • The location of each parent.
  • The current employment and work history of both parents.
  • If the child is old enough, the court may ask for his or her living preference.
  • Each parent’s daily work and life schedules.

Courts generally prefer both parents have an active role in their child’s life. However, if there are past issues such as abuse or domestic violence, the judge will most certainly take these into consideration, and may require supervised visitation, and in rare cases, no visitation.

2) What Are Child Visitation Agreements and What Do They Contain?

A child visitation agreement is between two parties with the shared goal of creating a visitation schedule with their child. The arrangement outlines each parent’s visitation rights, their duties, and responsibilities to their child. It is best if the parents can reach an agreement together, but if not, the court will intervene. A typical agreement may include:

  • The child’s main residence
  • A detailed visitation schedule
  • Activities
  • Geographic restrictions
  • Modification instructions

3) Who Is Allowed to Create a Child Visitation Agreement?

State laws vary, though it is not uncommon for the parent with sole custody to create the visitation schedule. He or she will then submit it to the court, and if the judge approves, it will be a court order.

If both parents can cooperate with one another, they may reach an agreement together without court approval. Since circumstances can change, it is recommended to submit the agreement to a judge, which would make it legally enforceable in case something goes wrong.

4) Who Determines Child Visitation Guidelines?

If both parties can come to an agreement on child visitation, and submit it to the judge, it can be a fairly painless process. However, tensions may be high in custody cases, and child visitation guidelines may have to be left to the court.

5) What Are the Types of Child Visitation Arrangements?

Typically, child visitation arrangements can be broken down into one of two types:

  • Unsupervised visitation - The most common visitation, that allows the non-custodial parent spend his or her scheduled time with the child without being supervised by a neutral third party.
  • Supervised visitation - The court may order supervised visitation for a variety of reasons including: reintroduction of parent and child, parenting concerns or mental illness, a history of abuse, substance abuse or neglect, and if there is a threat of kidnapping.

In supervised visitation cases, the judge will specify the time and duration of visits, and will also designate the third party who will perform the supervision.

6) How Do I Create a Valid Visitation Agreement?

Together, or with a mediator, write down all of the important issues pertaining to the rearing of your child, making sure you are placing your child’s best interests first. Also include the following:

  • Any court orders or documents, such as divorce, paternity, and child custody award.
  • Documents concerning the child, e.g., letters, evaluations, or reports.
  • The child’s daily and school schedules.

7) Can Visitation Schedules Be Modified?

It is not uncommon for a visitation schedule to be modified. Life can get busy; jobs change, people move and children become more active. If you need to modify, try to work out an agreement with the other party, then submit it to the judge.

8) Are All Child Visitation Schedules Enforceable?

A visitation schedule is only enforceable if it has been approved by a judge, or if the parties have written a legal contract. Even if you already have an agreement worked out, it is still recommended to seek approval from the court.

9) What If a Child Visitation Schedule Has Been Violated?

If one party violates the visitation schedule, serious consequences may come into play, especially if it continues. A parent may lose visitation rights, be in contempt of court, or face criminal charges.

Schedule violations typically occur when a parent keeps the child over the scheduled time, or one parent denies the other their rights to visitation. If you have an issue with the visitation schedule, contact your attorney immediately.

10) Do I Need a Lawyer for Help with a Child Visitation Schedule?

If you are in the process of figuring out a visitation agreement, a child visitation attorney can assist you drafting the agreement, as well as filing it with the court. Custody arrangements can be highly contentious, and having a lawyer work out the details and represent your interests can be invaluable when it comes to your parental rights.