Child Visitation: It's a Post Divorce Fact of Life
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By DivorcedMoms, Senior Editor - November 04, 2013 - Updated July 17, 2017

visit dad2.jpgIf a parent is denied joint physical custody of a child that parent will, in most cases be given “visitation” rights with the child.

Parents can either decide on their own what they feel is proper visitation or a judge may order “visitation” on certain days.

Visitation with the non-custodial parent is something you should expect your child to be able to do unless the courts find that your ex is unfit and it is not in your child’s best interest to spend time with that parent.

In most cases, the court is going to allow a non-custodial parent generous visitation time with his/her child.

Situations in which there may be a concern for your child's welfare when in the custody of your ex is alcoholism, addiction or a history of domestic abuse. If alcoholism is an issue you are dealing with, there are ways to monitor your ex's sobriety and alleviate any fears you have about your child's safety when in the non-custodial parent's custody. 

What You Need to Know About Child Visitation After Divorce

Visitation Schedule:

After it is determined that a parent is to be awarded visitation a visitation schedule will be set forth by the courts. Normal visitation may include the following:

  • Every other weekend,
  • Alternating holidays,
  • Extended visits during school breaks,
  • One evening a week for dinner.

One mistake most parents make is allowing ambivalent wording into their final divorce decree related to visitation. Terms like, “as agreed upon by parents,” or “generous visitation” can cause visitation to become a tricky situation. If parents can’t agree or have differing opinions on what the word “generous” means visitation can turn into a high conflict issue.

The key to doing what is in your child’s best interest is to make sure your final divorce decree has specific wording related to visitation AND if your child is not in danger allows them to have input into how often they want to visit their non-custodial parent.

Alternative Child Visitation:

The Family Court has a way of dealing with situations where it may not be in the child’s best interest to spend large amounts of time or unsupervised time with the non-custodial parent.

Supervised Visitation:

Sometimes, based on issues of protection and safety, a judge will order that a child only has contact with a parent when a neutral third person is present during the visitation. This type of third-person visitation arrangement is often called “supervised visitation.”

Supervised visitation may be ordered if the non-custodial parent is a proven drug or alcohol addict, has been accused of or found guilty of domestic abuse, has a criminal history, has been absent from the child’s life and for many other reasons. Supervised visitation can:

  • Allow the non-custodial parent a chance to address specific negative issues,
  • Allow the time for a child to get to know and build a relationship with a non-custodial parent who has been absent.
  • Allow a non-custodial parent to take a parenting class or prove their ability to parent in the child’s best interest.
  • Keep down the threat of parental abduction.

Normally the court order will specify the time and duration of the visits. Sometimes, the court order will also specify who will provide the supervised visitation services and where the visits will take place. In some situations parents are able to work together and appointed a supervisor that is familiar with the child and family.

How Do You Modify an Existing Visitation Order?

As with any other Family Court order if you wish to modify your visitation order you will need to hire an attorney to file a petition to modify with your local Family Court. If you are unable to afford an attorney speak with your local Family Court clerk and ask for resources offered to Pro Se Litigants or, those who want to file a petition to modify without an attorney.

The Importance of Child Visitation:

Unless special circumstances exist, like abuse or addiction children fare best when they have emotional support and ongoing involvement from both parents. A solid relationship with both parents will foster a positive parent/child relationship and healthy emotional and social development for the child. A generous visitation schedule for the non-custodial parent also benefits that parent by helping him/her continue to feel they have a parenting role in their child’s life.

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