Following a divorce, a parent who doesn’t have primary custody of the child is usually granted visitation rights. In some cases, the parents can amicably settle and come up with their own agreed time schedule and visitation plan without the help of the courts. This visitation right, however, is actually a privilege that may not be automatically granted in some divorce cases. Thus, the courts may intervene and decide the conditions of the custody and visitation based on the best interest of the child.
Types of Custody Arrangements
The visitation rights of a parent will depend on the type of custody arrangement. A parent who has the child for the majority of the time and is named as the primary caregiver has sole, physical, and full custody. This parent is regarded as the custodial parent, while the other is the non-custodial parent.
In cases where one of the divorced parents has to move out of state or out of the country, the other parent often becomes the primary caregiver or custodial parent. However, many divorced couples also agree to joint physical custody, especially if both mom and dad continue to live within the state. This means that the parents share responsibility over their child equally.
Typical Visitation Schedules
Majority of the states have a standard visitation schedule. In Michigan, the most typical visitation arrangements may be divided into the following:
- Alternate weekend schedule – where parents can take turns having the kids during weekends. For instance, the mother can have the children over her place from 6:00 p.m. Friday until 6:00 p.m. Sunday. The following week, it will be the father’s weekend with the kids.
- Weekday parenting schedule – where the non-custodial parent may have time with the children for one night during the weekday. For instance, the court may allow this parent time with the kids every Wednesdays at 6:00 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. on top of the weekend visits.
- Holiday parenting schedule – where the parents agree on who gets the children for Thanksgiving, Christmas, and other holidays the family traditionally celebrate based on an odd or even scheme. For example, the children can celebrate Christmas with their father for the years ending in an even number and the children can be with their mother for Thanksgiving in the years ending in odd numbers.
- School break parenting schedule – where parents agree where the kids will stay during spring, summer, and winter breaks. As with the holiday parenting schedule, this may be an odd and even number scheme.
- Mother’s and Father’s Day schedule – parents are expected to set aside their weekends for their designated day so they can spend this with their children.
Defining the Best Interest of the Child
Standard schedules, however, may be disrupted and may not be followed to the letter. Emergencies, work commitments, and last-minute changes are guaranteed to come up in the parents’ schedules. Thus, the court may make calls in the “best interest of the child.” This phrase typically appears in most custody and visitation rights cases. The best interest of the child is detailed in the 1970 Child Custody Act. Family courts in Michigan observe this statute with the knowledge that the parent/child relationship should still continue to be strong despite the divorce or separation of the parents.
Several studies have proven that there are adverse effects when a child cannot maintain a good relationship with both parents. Thus, the court’s goal is to ensure that the parents meet their parental responsibility towards their children at all times. The best interest of the child should never be viewed as a portion of the child’s time with the parents. Instead, it should be regarded as a portion of the parent’s time set and reserved for their children.
Thus, a standard visitation schedule imposed on the parents should have some form of flexibility for modification if it is for the best interest of the child. For as long as these disruptions in the schedule do not become the norm, the courts may accommodate these modifications based on the child’s needs and well-being. For instance, the court may grant the non-custodial parent extra weekend parenting time if it sees that it is what the child needs. Accommodating modifications is also one way of ensuring that divorced parents can still effectively co-parent their kids.
Fight for Your Rights as a Parent with Help from an Experienced Michigan Family Attorney
The cooperation of the parents dramatically impacts the outcome of custody and visitation rights. If there are disputes and disagreements, you will require a competent lawyer to make the courts see your point of view. Our skilled divorce attorneys can help you fight for your rights and uphold the child’s interest at The Clark Law Office in Michigan. Contact our office at +1 (517) 347-6900, so we can start discussing your case.