What is the Difference Between Visitation and Parenting Time?

Any father who has gone through a custody hearing has to wonder who thought up the term “parental visitation”?  It sure doesn’t seem like just “visiting” when you have the children and you are taking them to sports practices or music lessons, feeding them, tucking them in at night, or having heartfelt conversations with your teenagers about life lessons. It seems like you’re doing the job of a parent!

That’s because you are. There is a growing move to replace the term “parental visitation” with “parenting time” as a more adequate reflection of what really goes on when each parent has the responsibility for the children.

At Family Matters Law Group, we believe that time spent with your children is time to be a good parent, not just visit or hang out with them. Ever since our firm started, we’ve been helping parents in Henry, Clayton, Fayette, and other metro Atlanta counties work out parenting time schedules that benefit everyone involved. Let’s talk about some key issues related to parenting time.

Negotiating What’s Best for the Children

When going through a separation or a divorce, one of the most emotional decisions will be how to split up the time with the children. No matter what you may think of your ex, the bottom line is that the children will benefit having regular contact with both parents. It really is in everyone’s best interest (but, specifically, the child’s) to negotiate an equitable split in custody.

Father helping daughter with homework

Obviously, the first major question will be who gets physical custody of the children. But, after that, the parent who is not the main residential parent deserves a fair amount of parenting time.

When you, as a parent, spend time with your children, it’s not just a visit. It’s actually time to be a parent. It’s time to set limits and boundaries, to celebrate their successes and teach lessons when they fail. It’s time to be a role model and a parental figure, not just their friend or someone “cool” they get to hang out with. In short, during your “parental visitation,” you are going to walk the parental walk and talk the parental talk, just like you would if you were the residential parent.

In fact, the more consistency and structure the children experience, the better relationship you will have with them. When children know that both parents are operating on the same page and providing the same level of structure, it is not as jarring to them to switch locations or households. Children thrive in settings where they know what to expect and that are consistent between parents.

Different Plans for Different Parents

That’s not to say that there is one type of parenting time plan that will work for all parents. Some parents live far apart, so regular parenting time is a challenge. Some parents like to have the kids over for a family dinner at least once a week, even though they might also see them every other weekend.

There are other factors that play into setting up a good parenting time plan. These include:

  • Any extracurricular activities the children participate in
  • Sports schedules
  • Parental work schedules
  • Summer vacations and other significant school holidays
  • Family holidays, such as Thanksgiving or Christmas
  • Who is responsible for picking up and dropping off

An Attorney Can Help

When it comes to parenting time for a non-custodial parent, there are so many questions and things to keep in mind. Above all else, whatever plan is settled on needs to consider the best interest of the child as a top priority. While most people think the mother is the most vital parent for a child, research continually shows that both parents can, and should, play a key role in shaping the child into a responsible adult.

When you are trying to work out the smoothest transitional parenting time plan for your children, it pays for you to consult an experienced family attorney, such as Family Matters Law Group. We’ve seen all kinds of issues, from transportation difficulties to hectic work schedules. It might end up being slightly inconvenient for one or both parents, but again, the main question to ask is, “Does this parenting time plan reflect what is best for the children?”

If you would like to talk to an experienced family attorney about issues related to parenting time, please use our convenient online contact form. We look forward to discussing your case with you.