Are you wondering what a typical visitation schedule looks like? Especially if you've just recently learned that your request for sole custody, or even shared custody, has been denied by the courts, you probably want to know what your visitation options look like.
Typical Visitation Schedule Options
In most states, planned parent-child visitation accounts for approximately 20% of the total parenting time (which does not include time spent at school or in daycare).
While there's no one-size-fits-all routine, a typical visitation schedule may include:
Overnights every other weekend
One weeknight visit or overnight per week
An extended visit during the summer, such as two - six weeks
Some (but not all) holidays and birthdays
It's important to establish a regular visitation schedule that works well for your entire family. Especially if your children are young or your separation is fairly recent, your whole family will benefit from a predictable, consistent routine. Generally, it's best to start with a modest schedule you can all agree on and build on it from there. For example, start with overnights every other weekend, combined with one mid-week evening visit. Then transition to an overnight midweek or tack an extra day onto the front or end of a weekend. It may feel outside your comfort zone initially, but it's important for your kids to spend time with both parents.
In fact, some states require parents to establish visitation schedules that allow both parents to enjoy approximately as much parenting time as they did before the separation or divorce. So if you both saw your kids daily before the break-up, it's reasonable to think contact once or twice a week is difficult for everyone involved.
Customize Your Visitation Schedule
Consider 20% a starting point. Many families make arrangements that allow for far more visitation time by including additional weekday visits or longer extended summer vacations with the non-custodial parent. Especially if you live in different states, this can be difficult to arrange, but it's worth every effort to create a visitation schedule that works for all of you in the long run. It may be hard to imagine your kids as teenagers, but that day will come—and when it does, you may be grateful that you made an investment early on in encouraging your ex's relationship with your kids!
Balance Consistency and Flexibility
Consistency is important, but so is flexibility. Emergencies, last-minute schedule changes, and work-related issues will come up—guaranteed. As long as they don't become 'the norm,' try to give your ex as much flexibility as you would like him or her to give you. As much as you may consider it unthinkable at this point in time, chances are that you'll one day be calling your ex with a last-minute request, too.
Allowing one another a small degree of flexibility can go a long way toward helping you develop a more effective co-parenting relationship, as well.
Put Your Visitation Schedule in Writing
Finally, putting your plans in writing will help you stick to the routine. Work on developing a formal parenting plan with your ex and consider filing it with the state, as well. This will help you to establish standards concerning visitation schedules, pick-up and drop-off routines, communication guidelines, and more.