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What is Reasonable Visitation?

Visitation can be a contentious issue in divorces or when a couple who shares children part ways. It’s important to be aware that there are various types of visitation arrangements that can be agreed upon — or ordered by the court — depending on the needs of the family. Importantly, reasonable visitation can allow parents to work out a schedule that has the flexibility they require to ensure the best interests of their children are met.

What is Visitation?

When a couple with children divorces or no longer lives together, the parent who does not have primary physical custody has visitation rights. Visitation, also known as “time-share,” gives both the parent and child the opportunity to spend time together and develop a strong emotional bond.

There are four types of visitation arrangements recognized in California. These include the following:

  • Reasonable visitation — This type of visitation is an open-ended order that permits parents to create their own visitation arrangements. Reasonable visitation works best when parents are amicable and communicate respectfully.
  • Scheduled visitation — Scheduled visitation is more structured than reasonable visitation. It sets forth a definitive schedule for the days of the week, holidays, and school vacations each parent will get to spend with the child.
  • Supervised visitation — In the event a judge believes the child’s welfare may be endangered when they spend time with the non-custodial parent, they may order visitation to be supervised by another adult.
  • No visitation — In rare cases, a judge might order no visitation if they believe there is a risk of significant physical or emotional harm to the child.

Notably, visitation orders can vary greatly, based on the situation of the parents and what is in the best interests of the children. To decide what is best for the children, a court will consider their ages, health, the emotional bond between the parent and child, the ability of each parent to care for the child, and the child’s ties to their community. A judge will also evaluate whether there is a history of family violence or substance abuse.

What Are the Advantages of Reasonable Visitation?

Reasonable visitation comes with many benefits. Critically, a reasonable visitation order doesn’t have to include scheduled dates or specific times. Instead, parents are able to plan visits that work with their schedules and can determine between themselves what they define as “reasonable.” This arrangement can also help to ensure that both parents play a greater role in their child’s lives by attending school events and extracurricular activities together.

Many parents find it easier to adhere to a reasonable visitation plan since they are flexible. While a strict visitation schedule can sometimes present logistical issues for busy parents, a reasonable visitation arrangement can provide them with the freedom they need to ensure they get to spend quality time with their children. However, for reasonable visitation to work, there must be cooperation between the parties. If one parent tries to use the arrangement to assert more control than the other parent, it may be best to consider another type of visitation arrangement.

If reasonable visitation isn’t working, a fixed visitation schedule might give the non-custodial parent parenting time every other weekend and for several continuous weeks during the summer. The schedule might also involve alternating holidays and allow for unlimited electronic or written communication while the child is not visiting with the non-custodial parent.

How to Obtain a Reasonable Visitation Order

In many cases, parents may be able to reach agreements concerning custody and visitation outside of court. Whether parents can work out the visitation arrangement on their own or during mediation, it must be signed by a judge to become a binding and enforceable order. Additionally, even if the parties reached an agreement among themselves, it is essential to understand that neither party can change the order unilaterally — if the parents decide to make changes to visitation at a later time, they must obtain a new order from the court.

If the parties cannot agree on visitation, the matter will proceed to court. But before a judge will hear the case, the parties are usually required to attend a mediation session. If they still cannot reach an agreement, the judge will determine the outcome.

Contact an Experienced Fresno Family Law Attorney

If you’re facing a custody or visitation issue, it’s best to discuss your situation with a knowledgeable family law attorney who can advise you regarding your options. The Law Offices of Rick D. Banks has been committed to helping clients in Fresno and the surrounding area with custody, visitation, and other family law matters for more than two decades. To schedule a no obligation consultation, call (559) 272-8359.

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