Child Visitation Overview: Tips for the Family

mother and daughter walking through front door into home

When the court determines child custody and child visitation for a divorcing couple, the goal is to reach a resolution that’s in the best interests of the child. This approach prioritizes the welfare of children above the preferences of the parents or other related factors. When applying this principle, judges keep a set of key priorities in mind:

  • Providing Necessary Care and Support: Courts scrutinize each parent’s commitment to fulfilling their children’s fundamental needs, including emotional support, education, daily sustenance, clothing, health care, and quality time spent together. A judge will look at the parent’s involvement with the children before the divorce, their involvement during the separation process, and their potential for continued presence and support in the future.
  • Ensuring the Children’s Safety: Most judicial systems are vigilant about the physical and emotional safety of children, especially when it comes to physical discipline. Courts look for signs of prior trauma, which can impact visitation and custody arrangements. They also favor placing children in environments that do not expose them to harmful substances, including cigarette smoke.
  • Promoting Stability and Consistency: It’s important to maintain a consistent living situation with a primary caregiver to minimize the disruption in the child’s life. Courts also strive to keep siblings together to support their mutual well-being.
  • Respecting Children’s Wishes: While it is not the final decisive factor, the expressed wishes of older children can be considered when implementing visitation and custody rights. This is more likely where these preferences are sensible to the court or are deemed to align with the children’s best interests.
  • Encouraging Cooperative Parenting: The legal system favors arrangements that support the active involvement of both parents in the child’s life, recognizing the value of dual parenting in providing guidance and support. Parents who demonstrate a willingness to cooperate with each other in parenting duties are often viewed more favorably in custody and visitation decisions.

Once a child custody agreement is set, it’s important that both parents work to maintain healthy relationships between themselves and their children. Family law attorneys often offer this advice to divorcing and newly divorced parents:

  • Minimize Conflict: Engaging in disputes over visitation and custody rights can be emotionally draining and financially burdensome and have the potential to inflict long-term damage on children. It is often more constructive to concede on certain issues rather than escalate the conflict.
  • Find Common Ground: Beginning negotiations with areas of mutual agreement can set a positive tone for the discussion of more contentious issues. Establishing common ground on simple, small matters during negotiations, like maintaining certain family traditions, can facilitate a smoother negotiation process.
  • Prioritize the Well-Being of Your Children: In matters of visitation, the primary consideration should be the children’s needs and interests, not their parents’ desires.
  • Maintain Parental Engagement: Children benefit more from the continued involvement of both parents in their lives, mirroring the family structure that they had prior to the divorce. Research also indicates that parents who remain involved with their children are more likely to fulfill their financial responsibilities to their children.
  • Be Respectful to Each Other and Teach Respect: Maintaining a positive image of both parents is essential for the children’s emotional health. Actions that may weaken attachment between the children and either parent, like claiming that the other parent is bad, limiting phone calls or other methods of communication, or asking the children to decide between the two parents, should be avoided.
  • Aim for Smooth and Friendly Transitions: The manner in which children are exchanged between parents can significantly affect their emotional state. Remaining cordial and nonconfrontational during these times can help children adjust more easily to the changes in their family structure.
  • Be Adaptable: Life changes, and with it, the needs and circumstances of both children and parents evolve. Being open to adjusting custody and visitation arrangements in response to these changes while keeping the children’s best interests at heart is vital for maintaining a nurturing environment for them.

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