Post-divorce arrangement of child visitation is not always a straight-forward matter. As the custodial parent you have the responsibility to provide an opportunity for and encourage visitation by your ex spouse. However, there are often times when the non-custodial parent forfeit visitation or shows up late. Whether unintentional or on purpose, it is not simple to deal with such situations.
The Difference between Custodial and Non-custodial Parent
As its name implies, the custodial parent is the spouse who has major custody of the child in a divorce settlement. He or she will be staying with and be the main care taker of the child, except during a period called the child visitation which typically is granted to the other parent, namely the non-custodial parent, as part of the agreement.
The non-custodial parent will attempt to pick up the child on fixed timeslots following a predetermined child visitation schedule or calendar. Frequent visitation is almost always encouraged by the courts so long as it does not cause any disrupt to the child’s schooling hours. In the case of parents who reside in remote locations from each other, there is more freedom afforded to the non-custodial parent during school breaks or summer holidays.
How The Child Visitation Schedule is Determined
In various states, the parents are required to discuss and draft out a custodial agreement which outlays the child visitation plans as well as other terms that govern how the plan will be carried out. The prerequisites for such an agreement are only that it is sensible and prepared with the well-being of the child in mind. There might be a need to employ a third-party mediator to negotiate the terms for the visitation who can help both parents reach a mutually beneficial agreement without a need to go to court. When a need for trial arises, however, the court will be determining and drawing out the child visitation plan and related terms that both parents must adhere to.
When The Non-custodial Parent Misses Visitation
It is not only frustrating on your part but also emotionally damaging to your child if your ex has a persistent habit of not showing up for visitation. The impact of repeated no-shows and disappointment can be particularly draining and devastating in the long run, especially to a young child. As the custodial parent, you need to exercise your rights to protect your child’s emotional well-being and clearly communicate to the other parent that he or she needs to adhere to the visitation calendar, or gives ample and unambiguous notice when unable to make it for a planned visitation timeslot. Failure to do so will lead to the possibility of you denying visitation to him or her.
If the situation persists, let your ex know that he or she will have to forfeit future visitations already scheduled in the calendar and from this point onwards, to give proper notice of at least one day before he or she can attempt a visitation. By doing so, you will be regaining some amount of control over your child’s life, as well as able to protect him or her from further emotional harm.
You may wonder what the consequences are for preventing your ex spouse from continuing with the planned visitation schedule. In order to protect yourself from such complications, keep a record every time the non-custodial parent forfeit visitation in the form of a calendar using computer-based scheduling software such as the one at Kids First or CustodyXChange. If the non-custodial parent decides to take it to court, present this record with all the previous reasoning and you should not have any problem.
When The Non-custodial Parent is Perpetually Late for Visitation
When you find yourself frequently rescheduling the visitation plan and spending long hours waiting for the other parent to show up, it is time to set things right. There is no excuse for your spouse for persistently disregarding you and your child’s own schedule. Inform the non-custodial parent that moving forward, you will no longer tolerate tardiness or procrastination that would affect you and your child’s daily life. You can give your ex a window of time to be late after which he or she will have to forfeit the visitation slot. This could be anywhere between 15 minutes and one hour depending on your needs. You need to emphasize that there will be no make-ups or replacement slots.
Once again, if your ex wants to take it to court, be prepared to present a record of the regular late visitations up to that point and properly explain your standpoint and rationale for the revised rule.
Knowing when to set limits will not only set your ex partner straight and protect your child but also allow you to gain his or her respect. It clearly communicates to the other parent that you are no pushover and that your child won’t become the victim in his or her games with you, whether out of spite or pure neglect. Either he or she shows up on time or forfeits the visitation – it’s as simple as that. Most of the time, you will find that your ex will be cooperating and everything will go back to its normal routine.
To download a sample child visitation schedule / calendar, click here.