Custody proceedings are usually riddled with confusing terminology that may inhibit your understanding and thus your ability to make good decisions about proposed agreements. Before you enter into any legal agreement, but especially long term decisions about your parental responsibilities like visitation, you should understand all the terms that will be put before you. Working with your lawyer ahead of time, or doing your own research should substantially help you prepare.
One of those confusing, enigmatic phrases that you may encounter in a custody proceeding is the phrase “reasonable visitation.” When the judge asks you to determine a reasonable visitation schedule, she or he simply is implying you are able to determine your own reasonable visitation schedule without the help of the courts, and that you should do so. This is preferable to a court formed arrangement, because both former partners have the advantage of working around their own schedules and sensibilities, whereas the court would most likely assign something that was difficult for both parents. Though this is obviously the preferable method of determining a schedule, it is also usually the hardest: newly separated couples may find it difficult to agree on menial things, let alone how their children will fairly split their time between their two parents.
Of course, how the reasonable visitation actually comes about depends on the custodial responsibilities of both parents. If one parent has full custodial rights, she or he doesn’t have to agree to any schedule proposed by the other parent, and generally holds the most influence on what the visitation schedule will end up to be. However, should the custodial parent vindictively reject all proposals for a fair visitation schedule, and unfairly propose limited contact between the child and their other parent, the judge may take these actions into consideration and act accordingly.
However, it is in the best interests of the child if parents can reasonably, calmly set aside their own issues and make up a schedule that truly benefits their child. While fewer transitions between households may be good for younger children in the tumultuous time after their parent’s divorce, they will still benefit most from a strong, loving relationship from both parents. When you’re making a visitation schedule, you may even ask your children what they think would be fair and take their answers into consideration. After all, it’s their life, and even just listening to their opinions on how their needs would best be met may help them to feel that their life hasn’t totally spun out of their control.