Visitation – The Creation of a Parenting Plan

When you start creating a parenting plan you need to look at various factors unique to your situation. In addition to your child’s age, you need to look at any special schooling or emotional needs your child might have. You also need to look at the work schedule and temperament of both parents to ascertain that any schedule you propose will be workable.

Courts look for parenting plans that are age-appropriate. For infants and children up to the age of eighteen months, courts want to see frequent short bursts of contact with the father. Once children grow older, they can move on to alternate weekends and one or two mid-week dinners, or a mid-week overnight visit with the non-custodial parent. Parents can define “weekend” in different ways; for example, a standard weekend begins on Saturday morning and ends on Sunday evening, while an extended weekend can begin on Friday (or even Thursday) after school and can continue until Monday morning when the child is dropped off at school.

In addition to weekly visitation, parents need to agree to a parenting plan during the holidays. Once children start school, the spring vacation, thanksgiving vacation, summer vacation, and winter break must be divided between the parents. You also need to plan for teacher-in service days and other days when the school might not be in session. Usually, the holidays, with the exception of summer vacation, are alternated between the parties. However, each case is unique and you need to create a plan that suits your needs and the needs of your child.

Parenting plans are vibrant, living documents. They can and should change once they have outlived their usefulness. If you feel that your parenting plan is no longer working because you would like less contact with your spouse, or because of changes in work schedules or in the children’s activity schedule, you can file an Order To Show Cause to request the court to modify the current order. The court needs to find a significant chance of circumstances before it will grant a modification.

It is important to keep in mind that courts are much more likely to grant a higher visitation time-share to the parent who shows a willingness to cooperate with the other side. As such, before filing an Order To Show Cause for modification, there are things you can do to dissipate the tension between you and your ex-spouse. For example, some of our clients choose to communicate with their ex-spouse mostly via email, some choose to take co-parenting classes, some modify their parenting plans such that they have very little contact with their ex-spouse, and many turns to therapy to get them through this extremely emotional time. If your ex-spouse acts in a way that does not directly hurt the child, it is best to try and work things out between yourselves, with the help of an attorney, rather than going straight to court. Then again, just being served with an Order To Show Cause, is enough to make some parents act appropriately.

We work with our clients and opposing counsel to reach an agreement regarding custody and visitation. However, there are times when the other side will not cooperate or will stubbornly cling to a visitation schedule that is not age-appropriate or does not suit the unique needs of your child. At those times, the trial becomes inevitable. You deserve an attorney who is knowledgeable in this area and who will present your case to the judge in a powerful, passionate, and articulate manner.