Where one parent is awarded physical custody, the other “non-custodial” parent is granted some form of visitation or parental access. Parenting time schedules can vary tremendously from case to case. What works best for the children should be the guiding principle, and the parties are largely free to agree on what they think would work best for them and their children. However, there are certain standard provisions that courts will use when deciding visitation if the parties are unable to agree. One typical visitation schedule is alternate weekends (either Friday evening overnight to Sunday evening, or Saturday morning to Sunday evening) and one evening each week for a dinner visit. In addition to this weekly schedule, courts will usually provide for alternating holidays, time during school recesses, and two to three vacation weeks in summer. If the parties live far apart, the schedule will be made to accommodate travel distances (i.e. one weekend per month adjoining a Monday holiday) and more vacation weeks in summer.
Parental access is sometimes ordered to be supervised by a responsible third-party, either a friend or family member, or a professional. This occurs when the non-custodial parent either lacks the relationship with the child and/or skills needed to exercise visitation without supervision, or he/she is afflicted by addiction, mental illness, or violent tendencies. If a child would be placed at risk by the visiting parent, supervised visitation will directed by the court.
Supervised visitation places significant burdens on those involved, and is usually not intended to be a final result. It is designed to be a bridge to unsupervised parental access, once the remedial goals are met. For example, if the problem is drug or alcohol abuse, then visitation will be modified to unsupervised once the non-custodial parent successfully completes rehab and passes drug testing.