Visitation is an incredibly important consideration when reaching agreements or seeking orders regarding child custody. Because of children’s school schedules, extracurricular activities, and need for stability, it is rare that parents with a joint or sole physical custody arrangement have the exact same amount of time with the children. It is far more common for one parent to be the primary caretaker of the children; and therefore, the difference in access to the child is made up through a healthy visitation schedule for the other parent.
What Does the Law Consider When Weighing Visitation?
The primary consideration under the law in issues of custody and visitation is the best interest of the child. Further, unless there is evidence that a parent is unfit, it is presumed that a continued relationship between a parent and child serves the child’s best interest. In fact, the stated purpose of the state’s child custody laws is to encourage parents to “share equitably in the rights and responsibilities of raising their child” and establish an “expectation that parenthood will be a significant and ongoing responsibility”. Therefore, courts will generally enter orders that allow the parent without sole physical custody to have ample visitation.
Holidays are a big deal for parents; and if you stop and think about it, there are a lot of them. Children’s birthdays, parents’ birthdays, spring break, national holidays, Easter, Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, Independence Day, Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year. It is not uncommon for holidays to be a real sticking point when it comes to negotiations or mediations regarding child custody agreements. This is why attorneys must focus on thoughtful, specific holiday schedules to create predictability and to reduce the chance of conflict down the line.
Here are some ways a balanced holiday visitation schedule might work:
- Special occasions that are specific to a parent should be spent with that parent. So a father should have visitation with the children on father’s day, while a mother should have visitation with the children on mother’s day. Each parent should have visitation or access to the children on their own birthday, as the children’s school schedule allows.
- Switch and alternate holidays each year. On other words, one parent gets Christmas in year one, while the other parent gets Thanksgiving, while they flip these holidays in year two.
- Split multi-day holidays. For example, Thanksgiving can be split into weekdays and the weekend. Likewise, winter holidays can be broken down into Christmas eve and Christmas day and New Years eve and New Years day.
- Let kids celebrate every holiday twice. It is not uncommon for children to have two birthday parties, or to celebrate Christmas with one parent, then have second “Christmas” with the other parent a few days later.
Let New Direction Family Law Assist You
Child visitation is so important to parents. That is why it is critical to have clear, enforceable child visitation schedules. At New Direction Family Law, we understand that that visitation schedules create predictability and certainty for parents and children. With years of experienced and an unparalleled attention to detail, let us help you get it right the first time. We serve clients throughout Wake, Johnston, Durham and surrounding counties. Call New Direction Family Law at (919) 719-3470 to schedule a consultation or visit us online at our website.
Sarah J. Hink
New Direction Family Law