What Is Reasonable and Liberal Visitation?
What is reasonable and liberal visitation? It is a time-sharing arrangement in which the specifics of child visitation are essentially left up to the parents to agree upon.
Many couples going through a divorce believe “reasonable and liberal visitation” is better than a strict schedule, but it can lead to problems in all but the most amicable divorces. If you are facing a child custody action, it is helpful to know the benefits and drawbacks of this option before visitation is formalized.
Who determines child visitation
Whether you are going through a divorce or a child custody determination outside of a divorce proceeding, there are a few issues that will need to be resolved. Either you and your ex can agree on these issues, or the court can decide them for you. The primary issues to decide include:
- Child support
- Legal custody
- Physical custody
- Visitation or time-sharing
When it comes to visitation, states have adopted standard schedules such as every other weekend plus two weeks during the summer. Some couples adopt these standard schedules or use them as a starting point, and some abandon them to come up with something that works better for them. When the parents cannot agree, the court will hold a hearing to determine what is in the best interest of the child.
Implementing “reasonable and liberal visitation”
A reasonable and liberal visitation arrangement may come about by agreement or by order of the court. When the parenting plan specifies that visitation shall be reasonable and liberal, rather than stating specifically when the non-custodial parent may spend time with the child or children, it puts the responsibility on the parents to cooperate and continually agree on visits as they come up.
This solution makes the most sense when the parents are exceptional co-parents who communicate well and do not let any personal differences interfere with their parenting decisions. In the real world, even when parents have the best of intentions and consciously focus on their children’s best interests, the predictability of a predetermined schedule typically serves the family better.
Drawbacks of a liberal visitation arrangement
Most co-parenting relationships are not suited for the non-specific nature of a “reasonable and liberal visitation” situation. The flexibility that seems appealing at the beginning can lead to endless disagreements. If you and your ex do not have substantially similar ideas of how often visitation should take place and how long it should last, neither of you will have something separate, like a court-approved parenting plan that spells out whose idea controls in any specific situation.
Even if you and your co-parent more or less agree, the custodial parent will have more power in the relationship. Since there are two opinions in every decision, there is no formal tiebreaker. The parent who has physical custody of the child, however, is an informal tiebreaker because he or she can, practically, veto the other parent’s wishes.
Perhaps the most concerning problem is that there is nothing to enforce. If one parent does not provide or return the children on time, the other parent cannot request police intervention because there is no violation of a specific time-sharing plan.
Modification of visitation
If you have a parenting plan that states that the non-custodial parent may exercise reasonable and liberal visitation and you run into conflicts with the other parent because of it, you may be best served by asking the court to change it. Revisions to visitation take place in a modification hearing when one or both parents allege that a change to the schedule is necessary due to a material change in circumstances.
If you are going through an initial custody determination, it is helpful to be aware of the visitation options and to choose an experienced family law attorney to represent your interests. Effective representation in the early stages can save you the hassle and cost of requesting a modification later on.
Speak with a skilled family law attorney
A divorce or break-up places strain on the parents and children as they struggle to reach a new sense of normal. The flexibility of a “reasonable and liberal visitation” set-up may seem appealing, but it can lead to disagreements and a cloudy understanding of each parents’ rights. A lawyer well-versed in custody and visitation issues is a priceless resource when it comes to protecting your rights through this process.
If you are involved in a custody situation that includes an order of liberal visitation or are going through the process of determining visitation, speak with an experienced child custody lawyer at Kantrowitz, Goldhamer & Graifman. Our team understands the complexity of your situation and is here to help.