Parenting Time

What is parenting time?

Formerly known as “visitation,” parenting time refers to the time during which the child is in the physical custody of the parent. Parenting time is either ordered by the court or agreed to by the parties. In either case, parenting time is generally laid out in a “parenting plan” that schedules when the child will be with which parent. Parenting plans often involve complex arrangements as to transportation, holidays and vacations. Sophisticated parenting plans may be transitional in nature, changing as the child grows up or as the parent-child relationship develops.

Am I entitled to parenting time as a parent?

Absent extraordinary circumstances, both legal parents get parenting time.

Am I entitled to parenting time as a non-parent?

Generally, only legal parents get parenting time. However, where it is shown that the custodial parent is not acting in the child’s best interests, a person who has established a “child-parent relationship” with the child may be awarded parenting time against the wishes of the custodial parent.

How do courts fashion a parenting time schedule?

Like custody, parenting time is awarded as necessary to serve the “best interests and welfare” of the child. Most counties have standard parenting plans that they customize to each case. These can be found in the Relevant Links section. In the vast majority of cases, the non-custodial parent gets at least every-other-weekend parenting time. It is also common for courts to split up holidays and vacations on an every-other-year or every-other-holiday basis.

After parenting time is established, what are my rights?

The rights of each parent with respect to parenting time are laid out in the parenting plan. In the event that one parent breaches a term of the parenting plan, the non-breaching parent can bring an action to enforce the parenting plan, sometimes on an expedited basis.

In addition, as with custody, parents can move to modify parenting time arrangements by showing that a “substantial change in circumstances” has occurred with respect to the child’s interests. Abuse or neglect often amount to a substantial change in circumstances. In addition, courts sometimes find a substantial change of circumstances where the custodial parent excessively withholds parenting time from the other or sacrifices their own parenting time by voluntarily leaving the children with the other for significant periods of time.

In addition to permanent modifications, non-custodial parents may request emergency temporary modifications of parenting time in circumstances where the child is in immediate danger. Because of their urgency, motions for emergency temporary custody may be brought ex parte (without the other parent present).