When a couple decides to divorce, there may be facing a lot of litigation processes. When there are children involved, the couple has more to worry about than the usual problems of dividing up assets. If the parents do not have joint custody, then there is a non-custodial parent and a custodial parent. The non-custodial parent, or the parent that the child does not live with full time, generally has the visitation rights so that they can take an active role in their child's life.
Whether or not they can agree on a visitation schedule, the family court will have to approve any visitation, custody or child support arrangements for them to be legitimate. If there is no court order, then the arrangements are not legally binding. A couple who is divorcing should have a legal agreement regarding visitation, even if they get along and agree on a visitation schedule. Having a legal court order may help in the future if problems arise. The family court will also help the couple to arrange visitation schedules if they cannot come to an agreement. You can also consult with a child visitation lawyer to review your case.
Family Court Background:
Family courts handle issues ranging from divorce to child custody. Any issue that is related to a family matter will be handled by a family court. When a judge in family court makes final decisions on child visitation schedules, they legally must act in the best interests of the child. The Family Law Act made this a rule. Under the Family Law Act, the child's best interests are considered to be their safety and the ability to spend quality time with each parent.
Other things may be considered as well. The court prefers that the parents of the child devise their own visitation schedule. This shows that the parents are able to put aside their differences for the sake of their children. There are many times when this cannot happen. The family court will then step in to make decisions with the best interests of the child in mind.
Determining the Best Interests of the Child First:
The Family Law Act requires all family courts to make decisions for the best interests of the child, the top priority when determining visitation. There can be some confusion as to what their best interests are. The two sets of guidelines that the court follows are the child's safety and their right to have both parents in their life. However, there are other factors that the court will consider when deciding on a child's visitation schedule, if the parents cannot come to an agreement on one.
The court may consider the child's preferences, if the child is considered old enough and mature enough to speak on such a decision. Another factor that may be taken into account is the relationship that the child has with each parent. If the child is much closer with one parent, then the court may decide that the child's best interest is spending the majority of their time with that parent. A parent's living conditions are considered as well. An unsafe environment such as a parent living in a bad neighborhood can affect a visitation schedule.
Parents who are unable to reach a compromise on a visitation schedule may be ordered to work with a mediator. A mediator works for the court to counsel families with the hopes of reaching mutual agreements on visitation and custody issues. A mediator is not a family counselor. In almost every circumstance, a mediator can report back to the family court judge on what was said during a meeting.
Working with a mediator is considered to be the last option before the court takes over and decides on the child's custody and visitation schedule. Sometimes, the option of having a mediator will be skipped and the court will move to make arrangements immediately after the parents cannot agree on a schedule. Other times, the parents may be legally required to work with one. If a mediator cannot help the parents agree on a visitation schedule, the court has no choice but to take over and make a fixed visitation schedule for the family to abide by.
Court-ordered Visitation Schedule:
A court-ordered visitation schedule is one that the family court designs. Once it is legitimized, the child visitation schedule is a legally binding court order. While a parent is technically not obligated to take advantage of the visitation they are offered, they can be held in contempt of court for not following the court-ordered visitation schedule. If the custodial parent does not allow the non-custodial parent any visitation, they can be held in contempt for not following the court-ordered visitation schedule. There are some common court-ordered visitation schedules that are put into effect.
One is every other weekend, with one additional night during the week added. The weekend is legally considered to start on Friday afternoon and end on Sunday evening. Holidays are often split as fairly as possible between parents, with the child spending Father's Day with their Dad and Mother's Day with their Mom. Other holidays like Christmas may be rotated yearly. School vacations and summer are often a time when a child will visit with their non-custodial parent for a set period of time, such as two weeks.
It may be necessary for an individual to hire a family lawyer when making custody or visitation arrangements. Lawyers that specialize in visitation issues will be able to help an individual understand and navigate the complicated process of determining visitation issues. A couple who cannot agree on a visitation schedule may choose to hire two separate visitation lawyers.
The lawyers can then work together to help the courts make a visitation schedule. If a couple can agree on an arrangement, then hiring a visitation lawyer may be unnecessary. However, one may still want to consult a visitation lawyer, in case there are any questions or confusion surrounding the visitation procedures. Visitation and custody lawyers can be found through one's local family court.