The phrase visitation is often used in custody situations and merely means a parent’s parenting time with their child. Establishing a visitation schedule is very important for your child and you. A schedule will allow you and your children to plan activities and ensures everyone knows which parent your child will be with each day.
A visitation schedule looks different for each family. To create a schedule that works for your family, there are several things you need to consider.
1. The age of your child.
There are many different schedules that you can consider, but some of the more popular ones are a 2-2-3-3 or week-on-week-off schedule. These schedules are for parents that are splitting 50/50 physical custody. While it may not be in your comfort zone, ensuring that your child has time with both parents is the most important for your child. Younger children tend to be most comfortable and do best with a 2-2-3-3. This schedule doesn’t require a child to be away for too long from one parent and allows both parents to be involved in the day-to-day care of their child. Older children tend to do better with a week-on-week-off schedule where they go to school and extracurricular activities during the week and then switch parent homes on the weekend. This schedule tends to be the most accommodating for their homework and after-school activities without them having to exchange households during the week.
2. Your work schedules.
You must consider your work schedule and be able to prepare for any before or after-school childcare that you may need. When your child is in your care, all childcare needs and expenses are your responsibility, so you must ensure you plan for the childcare coverage you need.
3. Be flexible and allow for changes.
When your child is with you, you must ensure you get them to and from all extracurricular activities, sports practices, and games. You will also need to plan for birthday parties and any other event that comes up during the time you have with your child. You will often need help or a change to the schedule, so be flexible and willing to make changes.
4. Make sure your child’s visitation schedule is in writing.
It is essential to have a written agreement that accounts for the day-to-day schedule and addresses holidays, vacations, and school breaks. It is impossible to predict what changes will be made moving forward, but to ensure you can plan appropriately, having the agreement in writing keeps you all on the same page and cuts back on any disagreements and last-minute, unplanned changes in the schedule. Not only can last-minute changes be frustrating to you, but they can cause unnecessary stress on your child, and having a schedule and structure for your child to follow will help them as they spend time with each of you.
5. Consider how your child is doing and make changes when necessary.
Although you both want time with your child, sometimes it doesn’t matter what either of you wants, and you will have to listen to what your child is telling you they need. Consider their feelings and what they may be going through as you navigate sharing custody. Although it may be your evening, your child may be having a difficult time in school where they need both parents for dinner that night to help them through it. One of the hardest things you will have to navigate are situations when your child doesn’t want to spend time with you but needs the other parent. Although this can hurt your heart, you have to focus on your child’s needs and ensure that their livelihood is of the utmost importance. That may mean giving up some of your time to allow them to work through what they need to.
6. Get the professionals involved.
As parents, you both must find ways to communicate and co-parent and agree to get professionals involved when required. If you disagree that you can’t find a resolution, seek the assistance of mediators and therapists or meet with a parenting coordinator to ensure your child isn’t in the middle of your disputes.
If you or someone you know needs assistance with a custody schedule, please call our office at 301-563-6685 to schedule a consultation with me.
About Andalman & Flynn, P.C.: Founded in 1998 in downtown Silver Spring, Maryland, Andalman & Flynn has forged a distinguished reputation for legal excellence. The Firm practices family law, estate planning, and probate throughout Maryland and the District of Columbia, and represents individuals seeking disability benefits throughout the country. The Firm focuses on cases that impact the rights of everyone and is there for clients when responsive legal help is most critical. The Firm has provided legal analysis on national and local television and radio, and its attorneys often testify before legislative bodies and are routinely invited to contribute to prominent legal publications. For more information about Andalman & Flynn, please visit the website at andalmanflynn.com or call 301.563.6685.