One of the most important documents you can create when you are separated or divorced with children is a child visitation schedule. What is a visitation schedule? A schedule for visitation is just that: a document that details how visitation with your children works. How do you make a good visitation schedule and what are the main components? The most effective type of schedule is one that is made around your children's needs. Let's take a look at what makes an effective visitation schedule.
- Residential schedule - A residential or everyday schedule is a repeating cycle of visitation and custody.
To do this, you must first decide where the children will live primarily (sole custody) or if the children have significant time with each parent (joint custody). A sole custody arrangement may include the children living with the custodial or residential parent primarily and the non-custodial parent has visits once or twice per week, overnight, on weekends or an arrangement for several visits per month. A joint custody arrangement may include a 50/50 schedule where equal or significant time with the children occurs.
- Holiday schedule - You should also make a holiday schedule or calendar that outlines each holiday and how each one is spent. It may be that you split each holiday equally so the children spend each holiday with both parents. You may also find that sharing the holidays all together as a family works. Alternating holidays every other major holiday or every other year may also be an option.
Vacations, special events and school breaks - If you have a sole custody arrangement, it may be that special events are spent with the custodial parent and vacations and school breaks are spent with the non-custodial parent. If parents live far away from each other and joint custody has been granted, the children may live with one parent during the school year and spend all school and vacation breaks with the other parent.
- Schedule provisions - You may need to include provisions in your visitation schedule. Provisions help make schedules more effective. Provisions may include information about transportation and exchanges, how parental disagreements will be resolved and how changes will be made to the schedule.
- Keeping a journal or keeping track of visitation time - Keeping a journal of actual visitation time is important. This will help you if you need to make changes in how visitation works or how time is spent with the children. You may also want to keep notes about events your children attend and what activities they participate in.