When couples with irreconcilable differences end their marriage through a divorce, the bonds between the spouses are effectively severed. Each party can proceed with his or her life separately. However, if a soon-to-be-splitting couple has children, some level of communication between the parents will necessarily linger, particularly once child custody has been determined and reasonable visitation for the noncustodial parent is scheduled.
Communication between divorcing parents is key to how visitation is scheduled. If splitting spouses can agree to a visitation arrangement that a court determines is reasonable, the court will approve it and it will become an enforceable court order. An amicably determined parenting plan should include practical details, including decisions on which parent will care for the children in the event of an unexpected day off from school or how to apportion holidays and vacations. It should also be crafted to be responsive to changing circumstances as the children grow older.
Any changes to visitation scheduling that has been predetermined by parents and that they have signed are as valid to the court as the original order. However, there will be circumstances in which parents cannot even discuss, much less agree to, a primary agreement on visitation scheduling because the hostility between them is so high. In such an environment, a court will be more likely to intervene and set up a fixed visitation schedule, especially when the court determines that contact between hostile parents will be detrimental to the child.
Courts prefer to allow parents to work out the time-and-place details of a visitation schedule. For this, early cooperation is a prerequisite. While a custodial parent has more control over determining dates, times and durations of visits, a court will take note if either parent has been inflexible, including those custodial parents who wish to punish the noncustodial parent. Vindictive inflexibility may backfire on a parent if he or she seeks future favors from the court.
Visitation scheduling is necessary to protect parental rights, but ultimately and ideally must be designed in a way that satisfies the best interests of the children involved. A knowledgeable and skilled family law attorney can help make that process smooth and equitable.