A non-residential parent can be worried and disheartened by the idea that he won't have enough time to continue to grow his relationship with his child. It helps to have a clear understanding of what normal, or standard, visitation is for divorced parents. The schedule won't be exactly the same in every state, but the guidelines are similar, and judges may deviate from the guidelines, based on the facts of your particular case.
Many states have a standard visitation schedule that's imposed when parents cannot agree on their own routine. Some states' standard schedule is actually a group of schedules that differ by age or distance between the parents' residences. In some states such as Ohio and Arkansas, each county within the state has its own schedule set out by local rule that controls for divorces granted in that county.
Best Interests of the Child
Standardized schedules reflect what legislatures and judges consider in the best interests of children for most families within their jurisdictions. If standard visitation is imposed, judges may modify the schedule themselves to ensure the best interest of the child in a particular divorce is served. In Utah, for example, factors a judge considers when modifying standard visitation include any danger to the child posed by the non-residential parent or history of sub-standard parenting, financial inability to provide food and safe shelter, distance between parental residences, degree of involvement with child's school and extracurricular activities, "substantial and chronic" patterns of missed visitations, and even the child's preference, if age and maturity allow.
Distance Determined Visitation
In some states, the standard schedule differs depending on the distance between the parents' residences. For example, in Texas, for non-custodial parents who live less than 100 miles from the child, visitation consists of the first, third and fifth weekends, and Thursday evenings with an optional overnight; Christmas break is split between the parents, with the non-custodial parent taking the child on Christmas Day on even-numbered years. Thanksgiving, spring break and summer vacation are spent with the non-custodial parent on alternate years. The child splits his birthday between the parents and spends the non-custodial parent's birthday with him. For non-custodial parents living more than 100 miles from the child, the schedule may differ, by reducing visitation to one weekend per month without any weekday visitation, and summer vacation is extended to a maximum of 45 days.
Visitation by Age
In some states such as Delaware and Oklahoma, different standard schedules exist for different age groups. In Delaware, from birth to 18 months, the non-custodial parent gets the child every other weekend and two weeknight evenings. At 18 months to 5 years, the weeknight evenings are converted to overnights. For ages 5 and up, time is shared equally between the parents, with an option to alternate entire weeks between the parents. Holidays are split into two groups: Group one consists of the following: Easter (or any religious holiday), July 4th, Halloween and Christmas Day; group two consists of Memorial Day, Labor Day, Thanksgiving and Christmas Eve. Parents will alternate even- or odd-numbered years for group one and group two holidays. Winter and spring breaks are split between the parents, and children will alternate weeks between parents during summer break.
References & Resources
- TX Access: Visitation Rights and Responsibilities
- Doug Loudenback, Esq.: Advisory Guidelines - Standard Visitation
- Delaware State Courts: Contact Guildlines
- Arkansas Judiciary: General Child Visitation Schedule for the First Judicial Circuit of Arkansas
- Lippincott Phelan Veidt, PLLC: Standard Visitation in Texas Divorce and Family Law Cases
- Law Offices of Virginia C. Cornwell: Visitation Schedules by County
- Utah State Legislature: Section 30-3-34, Utah Code
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