Child custody and visitation arrangements are often highly contentious issues for divorcing or separating parents. Determining a fair, workable schedule that allows both parents to be actively involved in their children’s lives is extremely challenging, especially when there is acrimony between the parents. A child custody lawyer has extensive knowledge of family law and the court system. They are the factors judges consider when making custody determinations, such as the best interests of the child, the child’s preferences if they are of sufficient age, each parent’s providing a stable and nurturing home environment, etc. The lawyer advises their client on reasonable expectations for custody and visitation based on the unique circumstances of their situation.
The key way a child custody lawyer is by negotiating a visitation agreement between the parents. Without legal guidance, parents often have difficulty reaching compromises and agreeing to schedules. Emotions tend to run high, and parents may make unrealistic demands or refuse to consider reasonable proposals. A lawyer serves as an intermediary who calmly facilitates discussions and keeps the focus on the children’s best interests.
A child custody lawyer may propose a phased-in approach to visitation increase time with the non-custodial parent. It allows both the children and parents to adjust to the new arrangement, especially if the non-custodial parent was involved in the past. Starting with short day visits and building up to overnights and weekends helps make the transition easier on kids. The lawyer crafts a visitation schedule that takes into account the children’s school and extracurricular activities. Missing activities and classes negatively impact kids, to consistently participate in sports, music lessons, etc. The lawyer may suggest including a right of first refusal clause so that if one parent needs childcare during their time, they must offer the time to the other parent before using a babysitter or daycare.
Visitation schedules will evolve as children get older and more involved in social and school activities. A child custody lawyer mediates adjustments to the schedule based on the changing needs and maturity level of the children. For example, teens may prefer to split time more evenly between parents rather than spend every weekend with one parent. Parents may agree to be more flexible during the summer when school is not in session. A custody lawyer advises parents on crafting holiday and vacation visitation plans. They determine a fair way to split time between parents for holidays, birthdays, and school breaks. Rotating holidays annually is typically standard, but a lawyer’s parents customize a plan if needed.
If one parent relocates a child custody lawyer restructures the visitation plan. Travel costs, school schedules, and the children’s preferences are balanced to develop a realistic long-distance visitation agreement. The lawyer addresses virtual visits such as phone calls or video chats. Visitation plans may be part of a divorce judgment or legal separation agreement. However, even unmarried parents benefit from formalizing custody arrangements through a parenting plan negotiated by a lawyer. Having clear, mutually agreed-upon terms helps avoid future conflicts and enforcement issues.