Alternative Worksheet: Custody/Visitation Schedule
This worksheet can serve as a tool to help you and your co-parent work out a compromise in the custody and visitation of your children.
Listed below are some suggestions to get you thinking about possible ways to share custody of your child(ren) following divorce or separation. These suggestions are by no means exhaustive but rather show the various options available.
Any arrangement that works for you and your child(ren) is a good one. This form can also be used in alternative dispute resolution proceedings, such as mediation sessions about child custody.
Custody and Visitation Schedule Worksheet
Use this worksheet to discuss important aspects of your child custody and visitation schedule agreement.
Before beginning, you must designate who is "Parent 1" and who is "Parent 2":
Parent 1: _____________________________________
Parent 2: _____________________________________
Check all that apply:
____ Parent 1 / Parent 2 (circle one) will have sole legal custody of the child(ren).
____ Parent 1 / Parent 2 (circle one) will have joint legal custody of the child(ren).
____ Parent 1 / Parent 2 (circle one) will have sole physical custody of the child(ren).
____ Parent 1 / Parent 2 (circle one) will have joint physical custody of the child(ren).
____ Parent 1 / Parent 2 will have primary physical custody of the child(ren), with the other parent having liberal visitation with the child(ren).
Shared physical custody arrangements:
____ Parent 1 / Parent 2 (circle one) will have the child(ren) in their custody every week
from _________ day at ____ o'clock a.m. / p.m. (circle one) to _________day at ____ o'clock
a.m. / p.m. (circle one), and at all other relevant times the child(ren) will be in the custody of the other parent.
____ Parent 1 / Parent 2 (circle one) will have custody of the child(ren) every other week, and at all other relevant times, the child(ren) will be in the custody of the other parent.
____ Parent 1 / Parent 2 (circle one) will have custody of the child(ren) during the school year, and the other parent will have custody of the child(ren) during school vacations and the summer months.
____ Parent 1 / Parent 2 (circle one) will have custody of the child(ren) according to a week-to-week schedule, as jointly determined by them in accordance with their schedules and the schedules of their child(ren).
____ Parent 1 / Parent 2 will share custody of the child(ren) according to the following
Primary physical custody with liberal visitation arrangements:
____ The noncustodial parent will have visitation with the child(ren) every weekend from _________day at ____ o'clock a.m. / p.m. (circle one) to _________day at ____ o'clock a.m. / p.m. (circle one).
____ The noncustodial parent will have visitation with the child(ren) every other weekend from _________day at ____ o'clock a.m. / p.m. (circle one) to _________day at ____ o'clock a.m. / p.m. (circle one)
____ The noncustodial parent will have visitation with the child(ren) one evening each week as follows: ________________________________________________________________
____ The noncustodial parent will have visitation with the child(ren) according to the
following schedule ________________________________________________________
The noncustodial parent will have visitation with the child(ren) on the following days:
____ Child's birthday ____ Parent's birthdaySchool breaks (list): ______________________ ______________________ ______________________ ______________________ New Year's Day ____Valentine's Day ____ Passover ____ Easter ____ Memorial Day ____ Fourth of July ____ Labor Day ____ Thanksgiving ____ Hanukkah ____ Christmas Eve ____ Christmas Day ____ Kwanzaa ____ Other religious holidays (list): ____ ______________________ ______________________ ______________________ __________________Other special days (list): ______________________ ______________________ ______________________ __________________
How Child Custody Decisions Are Made
It's helpful to know who the decision-making authority is and how the decisions about child custody and visitation will be made. Parents have the right to create a parenting plan that works for both of them. However, if the parents can't come to a decision together, the court will step in to help. The court is the ultimate decision-making authority.
Family courts follow the best interests of the child standard to make child custody decisions. The court will look at a variety of factors. Ultimately, the court wants to make a decision with the minor child's safety and well-being in mind. For example, if the court finds that either parent has a history of child abuse or domestic violence, the court may choose to make that parent a "noncustodial parent."
Noncustodial parents may be ordered by the court to pay child support to the custodial parent. This is done through a support order. Courts will generally use child support guidelines to determine how much the monthly payment will cost. Failing to pay support is a serious matter. A parent who fails to pay court-ordered support can face legal repercussions such as jail time. They may also have reduced parenting time or lose their right to make major decisions about the child's life. These can include decisions about education, medical care, and health care. The parent may lose the right to have overnights with the child.
Many parents come to an agreement themselves. They usually agree to joint custody arrangements, where the child shares time with each parent. Both parents are involved in making major decisions about the child's life together. Parents in these arrangements may choose to alter holiday schedules with their children. For example, one parent may get Thanksgivings with the child on odd years, and the other parent gets them on even years. Or, the agreement might include the stipulation that a certain parent gets the child every year on a certain holiday, like New Year's Eve. As long as the parents agree, the custody order can look any way they prefer.
Modifying the Parenting Plan
Custody court orders can always be modified if there is a change in circumstances. Parents can always alter their parenting time schedules if there is good reason to do so. For example, there may be exceptions for special occasions, like spring break or winter break. Parents may need to agree to take certain extracurricular activities into account. Father's Day and Mother's Day might be other occasions where the parents might agree to alter the parenting plan. Ultimately, it's best to create clear expectations about the holiday schedule and vacation time beforehand.
Casual alterations usually don't need to be through the court. For example, if a parent needs to pick up a child from school one day, this can usually just be talked through with the other parent. Other examples include if there is an issue with child care or daycare and a parent's work schedule. The caregivers usually don't have to get court permission for this. However, if this is a frequent occurrence over a long period of time, the parents may need to petition the court for a modification of the custody order.
Get Legal Help with Creating Your Custody/Visitation Schedule
Child custody determinations are very important to the courts and to everyone involved. Clear agreements outlining the custody and visitation schedule of the child help ensure that fewer custody issues arise. Family law can be a complex area of law. An attorney well-versed in family law can help tremendously.
Contact a local child custody attorney to discuss your child custody issues and to avoid future problems.
Can I Solve This on My Own or Do I Need an Attorney?
- Both parents can seek custody of their children — with or without an attorney
- An attorney can help get the custody and visitation agreement you want
- An attorney will advocate for your rights as a parent
A lawyer can help protect your rights and your children's best interests. Many attorneys offer free consultations.
Don't Forget About Estate Planning
Once new child custody arrangements are in place, it’s an ideal time to create or change your estate planning forms. Take the time to add new beneficiaries to your will and name a guardian for any minor children. Consider creating a financial power of attorney so your agent can pay bills and provide for your children. A health care directive explains your health care decisions and takes the decision-making burden off your children when they become adults.