If your co-parent is getting sole custody of your children and you have visitation rights, it's essential to craft a visitation schedule that allows you and your kids to forge a healthy relationship as they grow up even though you won't be part of their everyday lives.
Putting a parenting plan in place with the court helps both parents and kids plan their lives and develop a routine. Consistency is critical for kids after their parents split. The more details you put in writing, including not just the schedule, but drop-off and pick-up specifications and expectations for when the children are visiting, the more smoothly things will go.
There's no "typical" visitation schedule. It depends on the kids ages, school and extracurricular activity schedules and your distance from your co-parent. Generally, a non-custodial parent has the children about 20 percent of the time. Often this involves the children being in your home:
- Every other weekend
- One weeknight evening or overnight stay
- Designated holidays and birthdays
- Anywhere from two to six weeks during the summer
Sometimes the non-custodial parent will start out with more limited visitation (perhaps every other weekend and one weeknight evening) and build on that. It may take younger kids time to become comfortable being away from their custodial parent. The non-custodial parent may need to become comfortable caring for the children alone.
While having a consistent schedule that both kids and parents can count on is important, parents need to be flexible. When kids have evening or weekend events that make visiting their non-custodial parent at the scheduled time difficult, it's best if parents can rearrange that week's schedule accordingly. If one parent needs to rearrange the schedule one week because of a family or business obligation, the other parent should try to accommodate that. One day the shoe will be on the other foot. It's still best to stick to the designated schedule as much as possible.
Likely the visitation schedule that you set up during your divorce will need to be modified as your children grow up and circumstances change. If you and your co-parent find yourselves regularly following a different schedule, it's probably best to change your parenting plan to help minimize confusion and conflict. Your North Carolina family law attorney will help you work out a visitation schedule that protects your parental rights and is in the your children's best interests.