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Divorce Law | Reasonable Visitation

Divorce Law | Reasonable Visitation

Divorce Law | Reasonable Visitation

I regularly have consultations with potential clients who are considering filing for divorce. A million questions inevitably arise about finances, witnesses, evidence etc. but the most prescient question always has to do with custody of children. Naturally, parents are extremely concerned about their well-being of their child. Divorce is tough enough, but when you factor in the heavy toll a divorce takes on your child(ren) it can be almost too much to bear.

The primary caregivers – the parent who spends the most time actually taking care of the children – worry about how the other parent will behave around the child. Will the other parent watch the child close enough? Will the other parent pay enough attention? What will he or she feed the child? Does the other parent remember that the child has allergies? The other parent has never washed clothes in his or her life, how is he or she going to take care of the kids. These are, of course, legitimate questions and the court typically looks at these sorts of concerns when it decides to whom it will award primary care and custody of the children. The reality, however, remains the same. As long as the parents opt to lead separate lives, they will both have to deal with relinquishing control of the child while the other parent has custody.

However, the other side – the parent who knows he or she is not going to get primary custody of the kids – often have one over-arching question: How much am I going to see my kids? There is typically no greater fear for a loving parent than facing a world where your child will grow up without you, and the sad reality is that a parent can fade from a child’s life if he or she does not maintain regular contact.

Granted, if you are a loving parent then you do not have to worry too much. Over the decades, the Mississippi Supreme Court has set forth various presumptions and guidelines that help to ensure that a child will benefit from spending ample time with both parents. Frequent and ongoing unsupervised contact with both parents is the right of both the parents and the child, except in the most dire circumstances (generally when there is a genuine fear of harm to the child). The non-custodial parent is typically entitled to overnight visitation, holiday visitation and extended summer visitation. Moreover, the non-custodial parent should have decision-making rights regarding the child’s activities, schedule, discipline and religious training while in the custody of the non-custodial parent, unless the child is in danger. The idea, of course, is to ensure that the child has a legitimate and close bond with both parents and that the custodial parent cannot unduly control or influence that relationship.

So what is standard for a typical, good loving parent? The standard is two full weekends a month during the school year, Friday night to Sunday night, and five weeks during the summer time. Alternating holiday visitation is normally awarded as well. While it is impossible for a visitation schedule to afford a child the amount of time with both of the parents that the child would have if they were together, such a minimum, standard visitation schedule ensures that the child will have a substantial relationship with both parents.

– Matthew Pavlov

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