Child custody and visitation lawyers can help divorcing or never-married couples in matters pertaining to how they will deal with caring for their children. These family law attorneys can help in developing a parenting plan, as well as provide expert advice when one parent is not honoring the custody and visitation order.
Child Custody and Visitation Lawyers: Negotiating a Parenting Plan
Couples who are trying to work out a parenting plan may wish to enlist expert help from their attorneys to work out the details. The advantage to having a lawyer take over this function is that he can focus on the negotiations without the emotional involvement that the couple themselves would have to the situation.
The first step in the process is for the attorney to outline the different options for child custody to her client. In some cases, parents have joint legal custody of their children while one parent has sole physical custody. With this arrangement, both parents make decisions about matters concerning their children together and one of them lives with the children most of the time.
Other arrangements for child custody can be negotiated, depending on the needs and preferences of the parents. When custody cannot be agreed to between the parents, the matter will be decided by the court. In that situation, the child custody and visitation lawyers will appear on behalf of their clients at the hearing.
Each side will be allowed to make submissions to the court about the custody and visitation arrangement. The judge will make a decision based on what is in the best interests of the child.
What the Court Order Should Include
A court order for custody and visitation should be very specific. If at all possible, try to avoid language like, "reasonable visitation to the non-custodial parent." Since the language is vague, it will be virtually impossible to enforce in court. What the custodial parent considers reasonable may not be the same as how the non-custodial parent would define that term.
The attorneys should make sure that the custody and visitation order addresses the following:
- Exact schedule for visitation, including precise pick-up and drop-off times
- Where the child will be spending holidays, including summer vacation, with specified pick-up and drop-off times
- Types of contact the non-custodial parent will have in between visits; e-mails and phone calls will be included
- Access to school records and medical files for the child
- Whether the non-custodial parent will be participating in the child's extra-curricular or school activities and the amount of notice the custodial parent is required to provide for the event
Enforcing the Court Order
An attorney can also provide assistance in a case where the non-custodial parent is having trouble gaining access to the children as ordered. In a situation where the issue is relatively minor, such as scheduling issues, it may not be worthwhile to start the process to take the custodial parent to court. A better solution may be to reschedule the visit as soon as possible.
Before contacting an attorney about enforcing a custody and visitation order, it's a good idea to keep records of times when there were issues about being able to see the children. Writing down events in detail on a calendar can support your claim. If the violations are severe enough, the court may order a change in the children's living arrangement, which is another situation where child custody and visitation lawyers can provide professional help.