While one parent may have custody of a child after a divorce, the other parent is usually entitled to visitation rights. A judge may assign fixed or reasonable visitation to a parent, and courts generally believe it is in the best interests of children to have relationships with both parents.
Ideally, a parent who does not use his or her given parenting time should be able to come back into a child’s life. This is why a parent may not lose visitation rights even when not exercising them. A judge may be hesitant about modifying visitation orders because it may not be in a child’s best interests. For example, children may not understand the reasoning for a reduction in parenting time and could feel unwanted and emotionally stressed.
It could be easier for a parent to stop visiting a child when reasonable visitation is in place because a set schedule is not assigned. However, a parenting plan should fix this. Parents are normally tasked with coming up with a schedule for visitation when they can cooperate and communicate with each other, and reasonable visitation allows both parents to consider their schedules and a child’s schedule when forming a plan. Conversely, courts assign fixed visitation when conflict prevents parents from communicating effectively, and times for visits with a non-custodial parent are determined by a judge.
Both styles of visitation have advantages and drawbacks, but it is usually better when parents can work together when making decisions about child custody after a divorce. While a schedule might reduce some tension, communication is important because it is necessary while both parents are in a child’s life. Mediation can sometimes help parents resolve issues, and mediation might be quicker than the court process.