In every divorce or paternity action, a parent will eventually be forced to consider a specific custody and visitation arrangement believed to be in his or her child’s best interest. This arrangement − often called a custodial schedule, parenting plan or a visitation schedule − must be realistic, practical, and above all else, precise.
A California Court of Appeal recently reversed a dependency court’s ruling that allowed a mother to determine a father’s visitation schedule, including when or even if he could spend time with their children. The Court of Appeal found this visitation order to be unenforceable because it unilaterally granted one parent the decision to determine when the other parent could see their children. This situation might have been avoided had the father come to court prepared with one or more proposed custody or visitation orders. There are many benefits to this:
- It compels a parent to think about much time he or she can realistically spend with their a child. Often this is the case where a parent aggressively pursues a “fifty-fifty” schedule, with equal amounts of time for both parents, only to learn that his or her work schedule simply won’t allow for this type of a schedule.
- It may force a parent to choose between working long hours or spending time with their child. A common cliché is that divorce makes better parents. This reflects the frequent occurrence that divorce leads parents to reprioritize what really matters to them. After all, what is a parent going to be remembered for: working long hours or being there for defining moments in his or her child’s life?
- It will likely please the judicial officer because it demonstrates a parent’s ability and willingness to assume custodial responsibilities. This aids the judicial officer in making detailed orders.
- Parents are more likely to be satisfied with a custody or visitation schedule which they contributed to rather than one a judicial officer chooses without meaningful input from one or both parents.
Consulting with a family law attorney or child therapist is an effective way to determine whether a proposed custody or visitation schedule is realistic for the parents and in the best interest of the child.