Who Determines How Much Visitation a Parent Gets?

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Many people are confused by the process of determining child custody and visitation. It can be a stressful time, so confusion is only natural. But, many ask who gets to determine how much visitation a parent gets? Is it the court? The parent with custody? The parent seeking visitation? The child? A government agency?

The answer is really all of these people play a role in the determination. The court will almost always get the final say on custody and visitation. In almost every situation, the court will attempt to decide things in the best interest of the child. To do that, the court will look at factors like the parents' respective mental and physical health, the child's choice, the parent's wishes, and which parent can provide the most stable and healthy environment for the child. After doing that, the court will make a determination of which parent should get primary custodial responsibility and what sort of visitation schedule is most appropriate.

At the point that primary custodial rights are assigned, who gets to determine visitation shifts a bit in a practical sense. In general, the parent with primary custodial rights over a child will get to decide what kind of visitation the other parent will have, so long as it is in compliance with the court's order. If the other parent is unhappy with the visitation being provided by the custodial parent, they are often left with no option but to return to court a time consuming and expensive proposition. As a result, from a practical standpoint, it makes much more sense for the non-custodial parent to simply try to work through visitation issues calmly and amicably with the custodial parent. Remember, it may be hard given all of the feelings tied up with your separation and dispute over custody, but is there anything you would not do for your child, including swallowing your pride and playing ball with your ex? If problems persist, you might even suggest using a mediator to help facilitate discussions.

What makes it on TV all too often is the story of the parents who allow communication to breakdown and one takes an inappropriate action against the other or takes the child without permission. This is never the solution and will always lead to more problems than it will solve. Moreover, this is the point at which governmental agencies are often involved. In many jurisdictions, various agencies may be responsible for policing visitation rights, safe and responsible parenting, and the interests of the children. There are many organizations that do this, including the police, and the reason they become involved varies widely, such as kidnapping, complaints about violations of visitations orders, reports of unsafe or unclean home environments for the children, etc. If called upon, these agencies may require one parent to allow the other to have visitation, may move the children from one home to another, may arrest a parent for taking too much visitation or kidnapping the child, or administer any number of other remedies.

Of course, at the end of the day, who gets to determine custody is primarily the parents themselves. Most courts take the parties' wishes into consideration in rendering its custody and visitation orders. The conduct of the parties will affect how agencies will react when called upon to police custody and visitation issues. But, most of all, the parents' ability to work together for the best interests of their children will be the best way for them to decide who will get custody and how much visitation is appropriate. Negotiate rather than fight. Talk rather than accuse. Compromise rather than allowing yourself to become needlessly entrenched. This is how truly effective visitation and custody arrangements will be worked out, will provide the best environment for your children, and will be will likely give each parent more time with their kids.

Of course, should you have a question regarding custody or visitation, you may wish to contact an attorney in your jurisdiction. The attorney may be able to suggest options unique to your situation and jurisdiction, and keep an eye out to protect your rights and the best interests of your child.

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Disclaimer: While every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of this publication, it is not intended to provide legal advice as individual situations will differ and should be discussed with an expert and/or lawyer.

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