Best Practices and Tips for Preparing Child Visitation Plans
To be successful in any child custody dispute in court or mediation, it is prudent to have a proposed visitation plan. When creating a child visitation plan, there are several key considerations. These key elements include thinking about the desired schedule for visitation, holidays, vacation time, and special events.
The more of these types of issues that are considered and thought through in advance of court or mediation, the more smoothly and efficiently the proceedings will transpire. It is a prudent idea to plan the proposed schedule for a year. Having the proposed visitation plan plotted on a calendar will give you a visual picture of how much time you will have with your kids.
The options for a visitation schedule are plentiful:
- Shared parenting plans split time equally.
- Some children may alternate weeks in each parent's home.
- One parent may have custody on weekends, and the other parent has the kids during the week.
- One parent may have kids every other weekend, while they spend the rest of the time in the other parent's care.
- Visitation may be scheduled for the second and fourth weekends each month.
- Extra days of visitation may be scheduled during the week. These can include evenings or overnight stays.
After developing the custody and visitation schedule for the year, turn attention to holidays. Decide what holidays the child spends with each parent and how long the holiday lasts. Start with major holidays, such as Christmas, Thanksgiving, Easter, and New Year's, and divide them evenly. If a holiday spans more than one day, decide if the period is to be split by days or if each day is split. Consider swapping holidays every year, so each parent can enjoy major holidays every other year.
School-aged children have changes in schedules and those must be factored into the schedule. Spring and summer break are good examples. Additionally, children do not require the same stability during breaks because they do not have to remain in close proximity to school and can travel more. It is often possible to schedule more visitation days during these more flexible and relaxed periods.
There may also be recurring or one-time special events during the year that affect the custody and visitation plan. These events should be included on the proposed plan. Recurring special events might be a parent's birthday, Mother's Day, Father's Day, or the child's birthday. One-time events might be things like sporting events, dance recitals, religious events, school functions, or anything the child is involved in with parental participation.
Thinking about the basic custody and visitation schedule, holiday schedule, and special events upfront and in advance of any custody hearing or mediation will best position you to prepare the optimal parenting plan.