Ordinarily the noncustodial parent is entitled to reasonable visitation with a minor child except in extraordinary cases, such as when there has been a history of abuse. Visitation can be flexible and unstructured or it can be highly structured and rigid.
Visitation schedules vary with the desires of the parents and the inclinations of a judge. Visitations can be unstructured or structured depending on the wishes of the parties and the judge. Because unstructured visitations require a great deal of agreement and communication between the parents, most courts and parents opt instead for a structured visitation agreement with a set schedule.
A standard visitation schedule might allow access to the child every other weekend (Friday evening through Sunday); one weeknight per week (i.e., for dinner); during the child’s winter and spring breaks in alternating years; on alternate major holidays; and for several weeks in the summer. If the parents live far apart and regular weekend visitation is not feasible, it is common to allocate more summer vacation and school holidays to the noncustodial parent. For parents who do not like the terms “visitation” or “custody,” it is possible to draft a custody and visitation order that avoids those terms and simply describes the times at which the child will be with each parent. Instead of “visitation” and “custody,” some states use terms such as parenting time or access to the child.
Usually the noncustodial parent (i.e., the one who is getting visitation) will be required to cover the costs of travel associated with the visitations. In some states, the costs associated with travel will be factored into child support awards (ask your attorney if this is true in your state).
If possible, you and the child’s other parents should try to come to an agreement about travel expenses and work through scheduling issues as early as possible.
It isn’t easy to facilitate weekly visits when one parent is deployed overseas or is stationed on the other side of the country. The laws and court opinions dealing with such visits are still developing. Many courts have not yet declared whether a servicemember who has visitation rights can delegate them when called to active duty (meaning that you give your visitation time to someone else, for example, your parents). The courts that have dealt with such issues have generally ruled in favor of the servicemembers and have allowed him or her to delegate any visitation rights to other members of his or her family, provided that it is in the best interest of the child.
I don’t trust my ex-husband with our kids. He has a bad temper. Can the court order supervised visits? I will sleep better knowing someone else is there.
No, unless you can prove that your ex-husband poses a real threat to the emotional and physical safety of your children. Your suspicion alone probably isn’t enough for a court to order supervision. If your fear is well-founded talk to your attorney about it.
A parent is entitled to visitation unless there will be harm to the child. For example, if the noncustodial parent has molested the child, is likely to kidnap the child, has a long history of domestic violence, or is likely to use illegal drugs while caring for the child, a court will probably deny or restrict visitation. Visitation might be allowed only under supervision, such as at a social service agency or in the company of a responsible relative. However, know that supervised visits are not common. A parent should not deny the other parent visitation without advance approval from the court unless a true emergency exists, such as a noncustodial parent coming to pick up the child while drunk.
Generally, no. State laws traditionally say that failure to pay child support will not affect rights to visitation. However, such failure could result in fines or jail time, which would impact visitation. See further information in the Support section of this site.