Child visitation is can be a confusing and difficult topic to deal with.  Here are some of the most commonly asked child visitation questions:

1) What is a Child Visitation Schedule?

A visitation schedule helps to organize the times and dates that each parent can spend with a child.  This is usually a regularly rotating schedule based on the child’s needs and availability.  For instance, a non-custodial parent may have visitation rights for the last two weekends of every month, or a similar arrangement.  Visitation schedules are usually mutually created by the child’s parents; in some cases a court may intervene to create or suggest a particular schedule.

2) What is a Child Visitation Order?

A visitation order is an official order by the court that sets the visitation times and rights for the parents.  Usually what happens is that the parents may come up with a visitation schedule on their own, and then present it to the court to have it converted into a custody and/or visitation order.  Once it becomes a court order, it becomes legally enforceable under law.  Violations of visitation orders can result in legal penalties and a loss of visitation or custody rights. 

3) What Factors are Considered When Determining Child Visitation?

When setting a visitation order, the court will usually consider factors related to the child first and foremost, such as: the child’s age and developmental needs; the child’s relationship to each parent; the location of the child’s school; and whether the child has any specific medical or psychological needs. 

The court will then consider factors related to each parent, such as: which parent has legal or physical custody of the child; each parent’s work background and financial status; the parent’s history with the child; whether there are special emotional bonds between parent and child; and whether there are any instances of abuse or violence towards the child by either parent. 

4) Can a Visitation Order Be Changed or Modified?

Yes- in many cases, the court may order a modification of a visitation order.  This may happen for instance if one parent moves, or if one of the parents has a change in circumstances such as a new job.  It can also happen if the child’s personal schedule changes.  However, modifying a visitation order is never an automatic process- the parents must file a request with the court to have the order modified for whatever reason. 

5) What is Supervised Visitation?

Supervised visitation is where a third-party adult person is required to be present during child visitation.  This can be required if there is a history of abuse between the child and parent.  The supervisor is usually a court-appointed professional such as a counselor or child psychologist who can monitor the interactions between the child and parent.

6) What is Public Visitation?

Similarly, a judge may order visitation to occur only in a public place such as a library or other places where people are present.  This is to help ensure the child’s safety and well being during the visitation times.  In other cases, the judge might order the child’s drop off and transfer to occur in a public place, especially if there is a history of conflict between the parents. 

7) I’ve Heard of “E-Visitation” or “Virtual Visitation” – What is This?

E-visitation or virtual visitation is where the non-custodial parent is allowed to communicate with the child through online communication such as video chat.  This is another way to help ensure that the child is safe, while allowing them to continue contact with the other parent.  It can also be useful in instances where the parent lives far from the child.  On the other hand, some no-contact orders prevent parents from contacting children through e-mail, phone, computer, or other devices.

8) What if Grandparents or Other Relatives Want Child Visitation?

In some cases, a court may allow grandparents visitation rights.  This may happen if the grandparents wish to be involved in the child’s upbringing, and if the normal parents are not available for whatever reason.  Other persons such as stepparents or foster parents can also be granted similar rights.  Again, this is not an automatic result, but must be applied for specifically with the court.

9) Is Child Visitation Allowed if There is a History of Abuse?

This depends on many, many factors.  In most cases, visitation is not allowed if there is a history of abuse.  However, alternative options such as supervised visitation, public visitation, or virtual visitation may be allowed in a limited form.  The main concern is the child’s safety at all times.  Also, restrictions may be applied if there is a history of domestic violence between the parents.   

10) Do I Need a Lawyer for Child Visitation Issues?

Generally speaking, it’s necessary to hire a lawyer when organizing child visitation issues.  A qualified child visitation lawyer can help explain how the child custody and visitation laws in your area work (these can be different from state to state).  Also, A lawyer will be able to assist you during court hearings if you need to appear before a judge.  All child visitation determinations are made with the child’s best interest as the main priority over any preferences of either parent.