When a parent has sole custody of a child, that parent has complete say over child visitation with the non-custodial parent.
However, in most cases, the courts grant the parents joint legal custody (the parents share the responsibility of making decisions for the child) and grant one parent primary physical custody (the child resides with this parent most of the time). Therefore, a visitation schedule is required for the parent without primary physical custody and the child.
In an ideal world, both parents will make compromises and reach a visitation agreement that satisfies both parents and is convenient for the child. Unfortunately, however, disputing parents may not be able to come to a amicable agreement. When parents are unable to reach an agreement, the court will set a visitation schedule for the parents and child.
The Virginia judicial system website lists several factors to consider when coming up with a visitation schedule.
- Be child-focused;
- Encourage frequent and continuing contact with each parent;
- Preserve the dignity of all parties;
- Help the family spend time, money and emotional resources in the most positive ways; and,
- Ensure that children benefit from a healthy, non-abusive family environment at all times.
Additionally, when approving a visitation schedule, the court will consider the “best interests of the child” and the corresponding 10 factors that were previously discussed.
If parents cannot agree on a visitation schedule, the court may order parents to participate in mediation. Mediation is where the a neutral third party helps the parents reach an agreement amicably. If the parents are still unable to reach an agreement after mediation, then each parent may propose a schedule to the court. The judge may either accept one of the proposed schedules, or create a new visitation schedule. Once the judge orders a visitation schedule, the parents must follow the ordered schedule.