The term "visitation rights" is very misleading. It suggests that a non-custodial parent is automatically entitled to visit their child. That is not the case. A non-custodial parent's right to visit their child must be proven to be in the best interest of that child. Visitation for non-custodial parents is a privilege, not a right.
When a divorce occurs that involves one or more children, joint custody is often the final decision. This means the child will live primarily with the custodial parent and visit the non-custodial parent according to a pre-determined visitation schedule.
The goal of parental visitation is to allow both parents to build a strong, satisfactory parental bond with their child. It has been proven that children who grow up with both original parents participating in their lives generally find more success in many facets of life; parental visitation is as much for the good of the child as it is for the mental well-being of the parent.
The assignment of the custodial and non-custodial parental duties can be done in court or independently, either on your own or with a mediator. A mediator can help quite a bit when you are having trouble coming to an agreement or when you are too angry to communicate on your own. If the court determines that one of the parents are unfit to care for the child in an acceptable manner, full custody will be rewarded to the other parent. Furthermore, if two parents cannot agree on the custody or visitation schedule, the court will make a decision for them. The court will also intercede when the situation involves drug or alcohol abuse, domestic violence, or seriously troubled families. If one parent is considered unstable for one reason or another, supervised visitations may take place.
It's important to note that visitation and child custody are completely separate from child support payments. A non-custodial parent still can be forced to pay child support. If a non-custodial parent does not keep up with their child support payments, it does not affect their visitation rights in any way.
Creating a visitation schedule should be based around the best interests of the child. By keeping the child's happiness in mind, the schedule-making process becomes more simple. It's important to avoid selfishly vying for time with your child; keep their lifestyle in mind as you figure out the best times to visit. The most common visitation schedule involves the non-custodial parent spending every other weekend with their child, as well as certain other weekends and holidays.
Parents who maintain their visitation schedule and do not stray from it find the most success with the situation. Missing visits and scheduled events will not only reduce the amount of time you spend with your child, but will personally disappoint them with your absence.
If the custodial parent does not release the child when a schedule visit is supposed to take place, it can be considered kidnapping. Along the same lines, a non-custodial parent who does not return their child when scheduled can be accused of kidnapping. The police can be contacted if a parent breaks their visitation schedule.
Many divorced parents find their lifestyles changing often, so adjusting their visitation schedules is quite common. General reasons for a change in visitation schedule include changes in employment, relocation of the custodial parent, dangers presented by the parent to the child, and violations of court orders. Parents must petition the court when a change in visitation schedule is desired.