Child visitation orders can be diverse and complex, depending on the needs and wishes of all parties involved. In general, the courts will aim to craft a visitation schedule that is reasonable and equitable, allowing the noncustodial parent to sustain important parental bonds and foster the child-parent relationship. Visitation orders will address regular visitation (weekends, summer vacation) and special circumstances including holidays, family events, and school events. Visitation orders may also determine the parent’s participation in field trips, sporting events, and other extracurricular occurrences.
In cases where the child’s health or safety is at issue, the court may order supervised visitation. In such instances, the noncustodial parent will be allowed access to the child only under very specific circumstance monitored by another party. The other parent, another family member, or even a court appointed guardian may be ordered. In extreme cases, the courts may determine that visitation is not appropriate, and no visitation orders will be granted. In these extreme situations, visitation will be denied if there is clear evidence that the child’s immediate health and safety are endangered.
How to Get Custody and Visitation Orders
A parenting plan is always the best bet when it comes to requesting child custody and visitation orders. The best parenting plan is one that prioritizes your child’s interests and wellbeing, while also accounting for evolving needs and future expectations. You should explore developing a parenting plan, either alone or in cooperation with the other parent. A parenting plan can map out a course of action that will allow you and the children of the relationship to better cope with the separation. In some cases, mediation can help parents quickly develop a mutually agreed upon parenting plan which can ease both parties and children during subsequent court proceedings.
When attempting to work out a parenting schedule, aim for cooperation and calm. Try to remove any feelings of animosity or defensiveness when communicating with the other parent and try to keep an open mind. While you may not be able to agree on an ideal parenting plan, if you keep the lines of communication open you will have a better chance of coming to a decision that is acceptable to both parents while also helping the child cope with separated parents.
The Courts, Family Law Services, and Mediation
If you and the other parent cannot come to an agreement regarding child custody and visitation, the judge may direct you to mediation. Family courts often provide special services designed to facilitate an arrangement between parents who have had difficulty independently deciding on custody and visitation orders. In certain instances, the judge may decide that an independent custody evaluation is needed, and some courts even allow a parent to request an evaluation. In particularly contentious situations, the judge may even appoint independent legal representation for the children in order to ensure that the child’s best interests are being represented.