Connecticut Custody Plans: How to Pick a Visitation Plan for Your Family

Daughters, with divorced parents were holding hands in the park. Concept for Connecticut Custody Plans: How to Pick a Visitation Plan for Your Family

Custody and visitation are often the most hotly debated parts of a couple’s divorce. However, taking a practical look at your family’s needs, resources, and schedules, can help you pick a parenting schedule that works for you and your children. That way, you can be sure your custody and visitation plan will be accepted by the Connecticut court.

Essential Parts of a Custody and Visitation Plan

In every divorce involving children, and every unmarried custody case, the Connecticut court must enter an order or adopt the parties’ agreement “concerning the custody, care, education, visitation, maintenance or support” of the parties’ children. This means that each custody and visitation plan should include a proposal or agreement relating to each type of child custody and visitation:

Legal Custody

A legal custody plan arrangement addresses which parent (or parents) are responsible for making decisions regarding their children’s education, healthcare, religion, and upbringing. Your custody and visitation plan should state:

  • Which parent or parents is entitled to information from doctors, teachers, therapists and other professionals who work with their children.
  • How parental responsibilities will be divided between the parents.
  • Which parent or parents have the final say on each type of legal custody issue.
  • How legal custody disputes will be resolved in or out of court.

Physical Custody

This refers to where, and with whom, the child will spend the majority of time. It establishes the child’s primary residence, and also defines which party will be the “custodial parent” – with whom the child lives more often – and the “non-custodial parent”-- who has care of the child less often. Over time, the prevalence of this traditional model has yielded somewhat, and creative variations are now almost as numerous as fish in the sea. Many physical custody arrangements are not solely in favor of either parent and the trend is toward “shared custody”, in which the children spend roughly equal time with both parents. This sometimes presents its own logistical issues, in that more changovers can be required, issues regarding school districts need to be resolved, etc. But increasingly, equal time is favored by the court system and parents themselves. Shared custody does not necessarily affect the child support obligations, which are primarily income based, but it can be a reason to deviate from the child support guidelines if both parents agree.

Visitation Schedule

Consider this your child’s appointment calendar with their parents. It sets the parenting time schedule for each parent and generally lists the specific days (or dates), times, and locations for non-custodial visitation with the child. An ideal visitation schedule will include:

  • A basic parenting schedule, often on a weekly or rotating two-week basis, that describes when the child will be in the care of each parent. You can opt for a “traditional” schedule, such as alternating weekends with the non-custodial parents, or craft something unique to your children’s needs.
  • A holiday schedule that describes who will have visitation with the child on holidays, birthdays, and other recurring important events. It is standard to alternate holidays, allowing each parent to exercise a given holiday every other year. However, if a specific holiday is more important to one parent, or if your family is religious or celebrates nontraditional holidays, you may want to set a specific holiday parenting schedule.
  • A vacation schedule that controls the custodial and non-custodial parents’ access to the children during their school breaks and other vacation periods. For example, each parent may be allowed to exercise one week of uninterrupted parenting time each summer to take the child on vacation. In long-distance cases, the vacation schedule may be how the non-custodial parent exercises most of his or her visitation time with the child, and may become the most important part of the visitation plan.
  • A plan for accommodating special events. No parenting time plan can predict years in advance when weddings, funerals, or family gatherings will occur. Having a plan in place for when and how to request one-time adjustments to the parenting schedule can relieve stress and make sure children get to be present for these important events.

Transportation Plan for Pick-ups, Drop-offs, and Extracurricular Events

Many parenting schedules skip one very important part of planning for your child’s visitation: the transportation. Your custody and visitation plan should state who is responsible for transporting your children for parenting time exchanges (and paying any transportation costs like airfare in long-distance cases). It should also indicate where those exchanges will occur: at the parents’ homes, at school, or in a designated public place. You may also want to clarify which parent is responsible for transportation to and from extracurricular events, and whether the non-custodial parent is allowed to attend.

Considerations in Setting Parenting Schedules

It can be easy to assume that you’ll rely on a traditional or “default” parenting schedule, particularly if you are your children’s custodial parent. However, that may be a mistake. Your children’s needs and best interests should be at the center of any visitation arrangements you propose to the court. No two families are the same, and your parenting schedule can be customized to suit your child’s needs, as well as your own schedule. When determining the best parenting schedule for your family, be sure to consider:

  • Frequency of exchanges: younger children benefit from shorter, more frequent visits, while older children and those in high-conflict cases are often better served by fewer exchanges.
  • Special needs your child may have: a child with Autism or certain other diagnoses may benefit from a rigid, stable routine, while other conditions may require more flexibility for doctors’ appointments and therapy. Very young children may also have special needs related to breastfeeding or sleep schedules that should be accounted for.
  • Travel times and distances: be sure to consider how long it takes to travel to the exchange point, including traffic and time of day, to avoid creating conflicts with a parent’s work schedule or child’s extracurricular activities.
  • Schedules for step-siblings and half-siblings: consider whether it makes sense to maximize your children’s time with their siblings or if your child would benefit more from one-on-one time with each parent.
  • Upcoming milestones: don’t make a parenting schedule with an expiration date. Consider how your visitation schedule can be adjusted when your children are enrolled in school, get involved in extracurricular activities, or start a part-time job.

Get Help Choosing the Best Custody Plan for Your Family

Even if you and your spouse or co-parent agree on a custody and visitation plan, your Connecticut family judge must still sign off on it based on whether it is equitable, and in the children’s best interests. That’s why you should work with a family law attorney as you negotiate the terms of your parenting time plan to create a solution the courts will accept. The child custody lawyers at Lawrence & Jurkiewicz represent people in Hartford and Litchfield County. They can help you consider your options and choose a parenting schedule that works for you and is in your children’s best interests. Please contact us online or at (860) 264-1551 today to schedule a confidential consultation to see how we can help you.

Categories: Child Custody