When you are involved in a Dissolution of Marriage proceeding and minor children are involved, child custody and visitation agreements or orders will need to be implemented. Here is an example of the difference between “reasonable visitation” and “fixed visitation”.
Reasonable Visitation: If the Court-Ordered visitation to the non-custodial parent is set forth as “reasonable visitation”, it is an open-ended visitation schedule with no specific periods of times, including holiday periods of time, being guaranteed to the non-custodial parent. Reasonable visitation should only be implemented between parents who prove to be flexible and exhibit good and reliable co-parenting habits between them. If one or both parents are, or will become, resistant to sharing the children by agreement, reasonable visitation is probably not a good option. Under reasonable visitation, the custodial parent maintains the final say in a visitation dispute. Flexibility is of the utmost importance in reasonable visitation orders. Each parent will be guaranteed to face certain circumstances that will cause them to want to deviate from an agreed-upon visitation schedule. If each parent can remember this and be willing to allow the other parent spur-of-the-moment visitation rights for special events such as weddings; opportunities to visit with relatives not often available with little prior notice; or special outings and events, just to name a few, then reasonable visitation will be successful. Your child(ren) will also appreciate each parent’s willingness to work together more than you will ever know. Make-up time to either parent can also be agreed upon when out-of-the-ordinary occurrences arise. However, if a disruption to the normal child-sharing schedule is likely to be met by resistance by the either parent, a Court hearing may become necessary to resolve any such disputes.
Fixed Visitation: If the Court-Ordered visitation sets forth specific days and times of day, which can include a Holiday visitation schedule, you have a “fixed visitation schedule”. A common example of a fixed visitation schedule would allow the non-custodial parent alternate weekends with the specific commencement and return dates incorporated into the order. Additionally, a mid-week visit lasting approximately four hours is often included so that the non-custodial parent can share a dinner, or other chosen event, with the child(ren) mid-week to ensure ongoing and frequent contact with the child(ren) between weekend visitation periods. A specific Holiday schedule can also be included in a fixed visitation order. This allows both parents and the children to be able to make holiday plans on an alternating-annual basis. Holiday schedules often prove to be of great assistance in ensuring that each parent will share equal time with the child(ren) during all holidays. Extended family members are also able to see and visit with the child(ren) when holiday events are able to be planned in advance.
Only you and the other parent know the best visitation plan that will work for you. When choosing the best option for you and your children, keep in mind such future possible actions as each parent entering into new relationships. If you choose a reasonable visitation option, make sure you believe that each parent will continue to work together, exclusively, to promote the best interests of their children absent undue influence from disinterested third parties. Upon a change of circumstances, however, any child custody and visitation orders entered can be modified until the child(ren) attain the age of 18.
Please call the Law Offices of Bawden & Kochis if we can be of further assistance to you regarding the issues of child custody and visitation, or any other Family Law needs you may currently have.