Basics of a Parenting Time/Visitation Schedule

father-son-poppy-field-15344710Parents going through a divorce or parentage proceeding often wonder what a parenting time, or visitation, schedule in their custody judgment will look like, what kind of provisions are provided in the judgment and how the terms may impact their relationship and rights with their child once the agreement has been entered by the court.

Though the judgment will vary depending on the facts of the case and what the parties may agree to, in general, custody judgments provide that one parent is deemed the residential parent, meaning that the child lives with that parent.  The other parent will be the non-residential parent and shall have parenting time with the child, and that parenting time schedule will be set out in the judgment.  The schedule in the judgment should be very specific, indicating not only the routine parenting time, such as every other weekend or specific weeknights with the non-residential parent, but also outlining each major holiday, birthday, and special event that may be relevant to a particular family.  The schedule can alternate holidays with one parent having a particular holiday in odd years and the other parent in even years, or it can divide the holiday between the parents as they see fit.  The specific arrangement will depend on the child’s age and the distance between the parents, among other factors.  The parents should further indicate additional religious or cultural occasions in the schedule, if applicable.  Further, the judgment should provide the times and locations of pick-up and drop-off of the child and indicate the parent(s) responsible for the transportation.

Additionally, many custody judgments provide that the parents have what’s known as the “right of first refusal.”  This means that if one of the parents is unable to exercise their scheduled parenting time with the child, that parent needs to notify the other and ask if he or she wants to exercise visitation first, before seeking a third party to watch the child.

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