Child custody and visitation can be one of the most contentious aspects of a divorce. Ideally, both parents want to be involved with the children. In a divorce, the children can often become pawns instead of having two parents that really think through what is best for the kids. How can two people create a schedule that works around their own careers and needs while still remembering that the kids have rights too? It isn’t easy, but here are some tips.
Consider State Laws and Precedents
Some states offer guidelines on visitation and custody. Make sure you know your state’s laws to make sure that you aren’t infringing on the rights of either parent to have access to the children. Ideally, both parents should try to work out an agreement on visitation that fits the family’s needs, rather than having the court determine visitation. If there are extenuating circumstances, such as abuse, you should discuss it with a divorce lawyer before working it out with the other parent.
Consider the Age of the Children
High school students have much different lives than elementary kids. One of the first things to think about is the age of the child. Young children may find it hard to transition between homes. A longer rotation schedule might work. Older teens who work or have extracurricular activities may need some flexibility in the schedule.
Consider Where Each Spouse Lives
Visitation schedules can work out much differently when parents live close to each other. Of course, it’s not always possible for a divorced couple to stay in the same city or state. It can be hard to get kids between homes when the distance is great, so visitation should take into account travel time.
Consider Work Schedules
If both parents have 9-to-5 jobs, then an every-other-weekend schedule may be appropriate. Each parent gets a weekend on with the kids while getting a weekend off. When a parent has an odd schedule, it can help to adapt to that framework. Visitation time is for the child to see the parent. It makes sense to make sure the child has access to each parent.
Try to Be Flexible
Having a visitation agreement that details holidays and vacations can be helpful to avoid problems, but keep in mind that children have their own needs. Remember to be flexible when a special activity comes up. What happens when dad has visitation over Mother’s Day weekend? What do you do when a child gets sick and just wants to be with one parent even though it’s technically the other parent’s time?