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Child visitation guidelines set forth the terms of how physical custody of a child will be shared after the parents divorce. There are two types of child custody recognized by the family law system: legal custody and physical custody. Legal custody determines who will make the major decisions that will affect the child's health, education, welfare, and more. Physical custody determines where and with whom the child will spend his/her time. Child visitation guidelines are set forth when joint physical custody is awarded.
Joint physical custody is typically arranged so that one parent has primary, or custodial, custody of the child and the other parent has child visitation rights. Child visitation guidelines can be determined in a few different ways. A family law judge will always have final discretion over child visitation guidelines. Regardless of how child visitation guidelines are created, they will only be approved if they serve the best interests of the children involved. The child's welfare will always take precedence over the wants and needs of the parents and others when determining child visitation guidelines.
Child visitation guidelines can be determined through a process called mediation. During mediation, the parents will meet with a neutral third party mediator (either together or separately) who has special training in assisting parents with child visitation guidelines. The purpose of mediations is to allow both parents to create a mutually acceptable set of child visitation guidelines without going to court. If the parenting plan is in the best interest of the children and both parents can agree to the terms, child visitation guidelines developed through mediation will be honored by the family court.
If child visitation guidelines cannot be created through the mediation process, the court will intercede to make a decision. When the court develops child visitation guidelines it does so to meet the needs of the children involved. In cases where joint custody has been awarded, the court feels that it is in the best interest of the child that both parents play a significant role in the child's life. Child visitation guidelines reflect this belief and allow the non-custodial parent to spend a significant amount of time with the child. Court ordered child visitation guidelines will typically allow the non custodial parent to spend every other weekend with the child, some weekdays, and certain holidays.
Child visitation guidelines may also grant visitation rights to other adults like grandparents or step-parents. All 50 states have “grandparent visitation” laws whereby grandparents can petition the court to grant them the legal right to maintain their relationship with their grandchildren upon divorce. Child visitation guidelines will determine the time a grandparent can spend with their grandchildren as set forth by the family court.
Child visitation guidelines are legally binding and all parties have a responsibility to uphold the terms of child visitation. There are a number of circumstances under which it is possible to have child visitation guidelines changed.
More information on custody:
Child custody rights may be shared by both parents or, primary child custody rights may be awarded to one parent or legal guardian. Since the 1970s the family court will award child custody rights contingent with the best interests of the child.
Child custody for fathers following a divorce is one of the most important aspects of a dissolving marriage. Throughout history the legal presumptions about child custody for fathers has changed significantly. Before the twentieth century children were regarded as the property of their father. Under common law, child custody for fathers was commonly awarded, as children were considered a father's rightful property. A major shift occurred after this period in history, as family courts came to favor mothers in child custody cases. It was presumed that under normal circumstances, children did better when placed in the sole custody of their mothers.