"Visitation" or "parenting time" refers to the rights of a parent who does not have physical custody of their children to visit them at specified times. The court is generally required to grant the noncustodial parent visitation rights to enable that parent to maintain a child to parent relationship that is in the child's best interests.
Courts are reluctant to deny or restrict visitation of the noncustodial parent. A denial or restriction of visitation rights must be based on persuasive evidence that visitation will not serve the best interests of the child. If the court finds that sufficient danger exists to limit parenting time, it has a number of options available to it. It may restrict parenting time as to the time, place, duration, or supervision or it may deny parenting time entirely.
Establishing a "reasonable" visitation or parenting schedule should be the priority of both parents. It is essential that both parents cooperate and remain flexible for the sake of their children. If the parties are unable to reach a visitation agreement, the court will intervene and the noncustodial parent is likely to receive a boilerplate schedule similar to the following:
- Alternating weekends from Friday evening to Sunday evening.
- One evening visit per week (generally not an overnight visit).
- Alternating holiday schedule consisting of New Year's Day, Easter Weekend, Memorial Day Weekend, Independence Day Weekend, Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.
- Extended Summer Visitation ranging anywhere from one week to six weeks.
Court systems today prefer visitation orders to contain specific and detailed schedules compared to "reasonable" or "liberal" visitation where the parents are left to determine the parenting schedule. A fixed visitation schedule helps avoid future and unforeseen complications.
Like custody, visitation is modifiable by agreement between the parties or court order. Visitation may be modified at any time in which a drastic change in conduct or circumstances involving the parents can be demonstrated.