Visitation and Parenting Schedules
Parenting Time Overview
Georgia's public policy is to continue contact between children and their parents. Courts rarely completely deny visitation, instead preferring to use supervised visitation with various restrictions to maintain a child's safety. As such, in the vast majority of cases, both parents will continue to have parenting time (visitation) with their children after a divorce.
The phrase 'parenting time' (visitation) defines each parent's times with the minor child(ren). The parties can agree on how time will be divided. Alternatively, if they can not agree, they will go to court and request that the judge decides how parenting time will be divided between them.
Regardless of how a visitation plan is developed, through agreement or court order, parenting time details are required to be reduced into a formal court document called a 'parenting plan.' The parenting plan forces the parties to define custody details, from routine parenting schedules to summer and holiday visitation.
Traditional Visitation ("Standard Visitation")
Under this plan, that traditionally has been used the most for outlining custody, the primary custodian (A) would have most of the parenting time with the minor child(ren). The secondary custodian (B) would have parenting time from Friday after school (or starting at 6 p.m.) until Sunday at 6pm (or Monday morning at school) every other weekend and dinner(s)/overnight visitation during the off week. The choice between pickups and drop-offs at school v. at 6 pm varies based upon the needs of the parties in each case with a preference towards drop offs at school to avoid conflict that may be caused by an in- person exchange.
Similar to the traditional visitation plans, this format has an every other weekend approach. The extra day allows for the noncustodial parent (B) to have extended visitation with the child(ren). As in the traditional example, pickups and dropoffs can occur either at school or at a designated time. This hybrid of joint visitation and traditional visitation has been growing in popularity over recent years.
Weekly Exchange (Joint Custody)
This custody arrangement has also been popular. Obviously, it's a week on/week off format that requires extended time away from the other parent. As a result, this format is slightly disfavored as of late.
2/2/5 (also referred to as 2/2/3) (Joint Custody)
This plan is a relatively new version of the weekly exchange schedule and provides for a similar 50/50 joint custody arrangement. This plan, however, breaks the monotony of the weekly exchange schedule and provides its own level of certainty for the child(ren) involved. Since each parent has two designated nights for visitation during the week, it allows a parent to schedule day care and extracurricular activites on a consistent basis that was generally prevented under the week on/week off type of schedule. Additional, this plan provides each parent with alternating full weekends with the child.
Sometimes, parents may choose to informally agree on how they want to handle or modify a parenting plan. In many ways, this is a positive because it demonstrates the parents are willing to work together for what is in their child's best interest. Please be aware, however, that a court does NOT have the authority to enforce an informal agreement. Instead, the court is limited to enforcing the formal parenting plan entered into a final judgment and decree of divorce.
Stepping Stones for Younger Children
In general, with very young children, there seems to be support for short, frequent visitations. The rationale is that it allows for strong bonds to develop with the child and each parent. Commonly, visitation in these cases will go from shorter, more frequent visits towards one of the more common plans referenced above.
What Happens When Someone Fails to Follow the Court Ordered Parenting Plan?
If either parent violates a court order regarding custody, they may be held in contempt of court. Upon finding contempt, a court has broad authority to enforce its court orders, including fines and jail time. It is important to honor any court order involving custody or visitation. If you feel circumstances have changed that warrant not following the court order, you should consider seeking a modification of the child custody scheduled.