Child Custody and Visitation Arrangements

What are Some Common Arrangements for Child Visitation?

Child visitation, often pursuant to a parenting plan, can take a variety of forms or schedules. Some common arrangements include some of the following provisions:

  • Alternate weekend visitation with the non-custodial parent, including "three-day holidays"
  • Mid-week visitation with the non-custodial parent
  • Sharing of the child during periods of school recess -winter, spring and summer
  • New Year's Eve, Easter, Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, Thanksgiving, and Christmas with one parent or the other in alternate years
  • Mother's Day with Mother, Father's Day with Father
  • Alternate years on the child's birthday
  • Open telephone contact by the parent who does not have actual physical custody of the child
  • Exchange of a few days of visitation here and there as mutually agreed without the need for a change or modification of the court order

What if Both Parents Agree On Child Custody and Visitation?

This is the ideal situation. Absent extenuating circumstances (such as abuse or neglect), the parenting plan agreed upon by both parents becomes the parenting plan. If the issue of child custody and visitation is not raised in a court action, the agreements worked out between the parents is left undisturbed. The agreement does not have to be reduced to a writing signed by both parents but a written, signed parenting plan is preferable for future reference. In addition, a written, signed parenting plan can typically be entered as a Stipulation between the parties and then issued as a court order for future enforcement purposes.

What if Both Parents Disagree On Child Custody and Visitation?

Most states require both parents who are unable to reach an agreement on the issues of custody and visitation to participate in a mediation session to work out such a plan. In the mediation session, both parents meet with a third-party, typically an experienced attorney or social worker, to discuss relevant factors in an effort to reach an agreement. Many contested issues of custody and visitation can be resolved in a mediation session and this session typically results in an agreement which then can be presented as a Stipulation for issuance as a court order.

Should mediation of custody and visitation disputes fail, the parents can then pursue litigation of unresolved issues. A court hearing will be conducted and evidence presented. Often expert witnesses, such as psychologists and licensed social workers, will be called to present evidence for consideration by the court. After the court has received such evidence, it is then in a position to make an order regarding custody and visitation.

Custody and visitation disputes can be very difficult and expensive to resolve. An agreement by both parents is the preferred course of action since a joint parental decision is more likely to be followed than if an outsider makes a decision for them.

Can a Prenuptial Agreement Contain Provisions on Future Children's Custody and Support?

Yes, but the court is not bound by such provisions. Courts have the power to decide on child custody, visitation rights, and child support, reasoning that parties cannot negotiate such issues particularly before the birth of a child.

Are Internet Visits Counted Against My Visitation Time?

A three-judge panel of a state appeals court says no. In a ruling in January, 2001, the court said that online visits through a Web site with video capability will not count against the father's personal visitation time with his daughter who will be relocating with the mother to California.

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