What are typical Child Visitation or Parenting Time Schedules?

Parenting time or visitation schedules vary from family to family.  For the most part, the term visitation has been replaced by the term parenting time but both are still used.  Parenting time or visitation schedules detail when either parent spends time with their children.  First in this article, I will talk about some of the typical parenting time schedules that I encounter and can think of as a Child Custody Lawyer in New York.  Afterwards I will talk about where and how the orders are made.  The possible variations or orders or stipulations about parenting time are endless so please use this blog as suggestive of possibilities rather than as a definitive and exhaustive guide.

Each family is different, so as common as the schedule might be in any particular case, there are nuances which might appear in any one visitation or parenting time schedule.  Some parenting time schedules are not specific at all and simply require that the parents will discuss and arrange for mutually agreeable parenting time in the future.  Other cases have more specific provisions.  Probably the most common parenting time schedule that I see is where one parent has parenting time every other weekend from Friday evening or Saturday morning until Sunday evening or Monday morning.  Often times the order can include a weekly or bi-weekly dinner or overnight visit in the middle of the week to supplement the alternating weekends.  What is inherent in this type of parenting schedule is that one parent is the primary residential custodial parent.  What this means, in layman’s term, is that they live with one parent and have visitation (parenting time) with the other.  Please see our other blog entries and website or call to learn about the different custody arrangements.

Typically, in this aforementioned type of generic schedule, the children will alternate holidays and school breaks between the parents.  Some couples have situations that certain holidays are more important for them.  In that situation one parent may be granted the parenting time for the children always for that holiday.  If the holiday is equally important to both parents and both parents want time with the child(ren) each year then a schedule to determine how that holiday is shared each year might be appropriate.    Usually there is a provision that both parents may interrupt the normally scheduled parenting time of the other to be able to put together one or more weeks vacation time together each year.  A provision is usually included to give one parent priority for selection of vacation time in odd numbered years and the other in even numbered years.   Clauses that require itineraries and contact information for where the children will be staying during vacation times are often included as part of the order.

Commonly, the parent that is getting the parenting time will do the pick ups and drop offs at the residence of the other parent.  Other times the parents alternate the transportation.  The order or agreement can be as specific as the pick up and drop offs will be curbside to avoid tense interactions between the parties.  Mother’s day is to be with the mom and father’s day with the Dad in most cases.  Pick up and drop off times are usually included for holidays as well.  The holiday, school break, and vacation time schedule supersedes the normal parenting time schedule.  Provisions about make up time for missed visits, possible forfeiture of parenting time for lateness’s and communication with the child while the other parent is exercising his or her parenting time are often included.   Time for each parent to see the children on their own birthdays and for each parent to see the child on the children’s birthdays are usually part of the order.

Some families have equal parenting time schedules as is the case in shared residential custody situations.  The vacation time, school break, and holiday schedules would have the same types of arrangements as in the more generic schedule, but when the days of each year that each party has parenting time are counted up in shared situations they would be about the same.  So, how do we accomplish an equal parenting time schedule?  There are various ways to achieve this.  One way this is accomplished is to alternate weeks between each parent.  Any provisions for the other parent to exercise parenting time for a dinner or overnight visit during the other parent’s week can be reciprocal so that everything applies equally for each parent.  Other ways to achieve this equal time is to alternate months, split the weeks, split the months, or split the year.  Equal parenting time arrangements are really the exception, rather than the rule, but if I had to state what the generic schedule would be in this type of situation I would say it is the alternating weeks.

Some parenting time schedules provide for supervised visits for the other parent.  A supervisor might be the other parent.  Often it is another family member or friend.  At times it could be at an organization that specializes in supervised visitation such as “EAC”.  “EAC” visitation is usually for very brief intervals in time and follows rigid scheduling.   Therapeutic visits might be part of a court order in cases where professional psychological assistance is required to establish or reconnect a child or children with one of the parents.  In cases where there is an orders of protection, be it through a criminal court, family court, or supreme court, it is important for the person to whom the order of protection is against  to have it state that it is subject to custody and parenting time orders so that it would not prohibit parenting or visitation with the children in total.  If the order of protection does not state that already, the parent might make a motion to ask a court to revise the order.

Typically a non-relocation clause that is designed to ensure that each parent gets there allotted parenting time as provided is included.  The clause often states that neither parent may relocate from a certain radius of highway miles or can not re-locate from a certain county or city without written permission from the other parent or a court of appropriate jurisdiction.  Out of state parents that live long distances have different parenting time schedules than the previously discussed arrangements.  Usually an out of state parent will have extended time during the summer, either for a number of weeks, a month, or the entire summer vacation.  The child(ren) often will visit the out of state parent during one or more school breaks.  Frequently, a provision that allows for the out of state parent to have parenting time in New York, when they are able to come to New York is also included.

Clauses that neither parent will speak disparagingly about the other in the presence of the children, that neither parent will smoke, be intoxicated, or use illegal drugs while exercising their parenting time might be included.  Many times there are provisions that neither parent will encourage the child(ren) to call anyone else “Mom” or “Dad” besides their biological parents can be ordered.  I always like to include that the parents may make such other and further parenting time as may be mutually agreeable in the future.  When this is included it means that the parents do not need to be tied in to the schedule that is in the stipulation or order.  Some parents take the order or stipulation and put it in a file cabinet since they work things out with each other as time goes on.  The schedule is pulled out in the case of a disagreement or dispute in the future.  Other people live and die, so to speak, according to the schedule.

Parenting time schedules are made as part of custody and parenting time cases in either the Family Courts or Supreme Court.  Usually the Family Court is used for unmarried couples that are dealing with custody and parenting time issues.  Married couples may also use the family court for a custody and parenting time order when they are not living together and co-parenting.  If they are living together and married, usually the Family Court would decline to hear the case and direct the parties to deal with the issue in the Supreme Court in a matrimonial action such as a divorce or separation.  After a matrimonial action like a divorce, usually the Supreme Court or the Family Court can be used for future matters involving custody or parenting time, unless jurisdiction is reserved exclusively in the Supreme Court.  Changes can be sought for parenting time orders if there is a substantial change of circumstances.  At times, what is a change of circumstances may be defined in an order such as one of the parents may “petition for overnight visitation when they move into a residence that has suitable sleeping accommodations for the children”.  Grandparent, sibling, or other relative visitation schedules are also sometimes made but usually differ from a typical parent schedule.  For example, a grandparent visitation schedule usually might be for one Saturday a month, or one weekend a month rather than the frequency discussed herein.  Again, every case varies.

The parenting time orders may be agreed upon by the parties to a case, or if there is not an agreement decided by a court.  A court must decide parenting time issues according to the best interest of the children standard.  There are different processes that parties may use to approach their parenting time issues.  Mediation, litigation, negotiations, and collaborative law are all available methods.  Please see our other blogs, WebPages or call to discuss your family law issues and the different processes available.  As always, we would welcome the chance to serve you.

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