“Reasonable visitation” is the term that many courts across the country use to give the non-custodial parent rights to visit with their children. The goal of using a vague as opposed to a specific visitation order is to promote cooperation between parents in setting up a visitation schedule. Another advantage to reasonable visitation is that it allows flexibility for the schedules of both parents and children. If the non-custodial parent works a different schedule every week, for instance, it may be difficult to set up a consistent visitation time. However, under a reasonable visitation order, the parents can work together to agree that the non-custodial parent should have the children on his or her days off work, or otherwise according to his or her work schedule.
Additionally, many states have developed uniform visitation or parenting time guidelines in order to help parents define reasonable visitation and set up a workable visitation schedule for their child. These guidelines tend to set forth a very detailed visitation schedule that clearly identifies the times and dates for regular weekly visitation, as well as for special visitation times such as during summer break, birthdays, and holidays. If parents cannot agree on how to divide the child’s Christmas break from school, for instance, then the parents can look to their state’s guidelines to see how it should be divided. The overall point of these guidelines, too, is to promote agreement and cooperation between parents as they work out a visitation schedule for their child. The courts in most states that have these guidelines will generally order the parents to comply with the guidelines, unless there is some reason that the guidelines are unworkable or inappropriate for a particular child. For example, if one parent is incarcerated, then standard state visitation guidelines simply will not work for that child.
In the event the parents are unable to either work out a suitable agreement on visitation or abide by the uniform visitation guidelines, it is up to the court to issue a visitation order or schedule for the child. A visitation order can range from fairly simple, such as deciding who is responsible for picking up and/or dropping off the children for visitation purposes, to very complex, such as setting forth dates and times of visitation in great detail. Whatever the order contains, however, it is important to remember that it is a court order that you should not violate. While there may be an emergency situation that alters a visitation schedule on an isolated occasion, you should generally stick to whatever the court has ordered in terms of visitation. If you don’t, then you can face serious consequences for failing to follow a court order.
The information on this page is meant to provide a general overview of the law. The laws in your state and/or city may deviate significantly from those described here. If you have specific questions related to your situation you should speak with a local attorney.