Coates & Davenport, P.C.

What is 'reasonable' versus 'fixed' visitation?

It is only natural that Virginia parents going through a divorce will want to end up with a child custody and visitation schedule that allows them both to have a meaningful relationship with their child. Therefore, visitation periods are very important to noncustodial parents. In general, visitation may be either "reasonable" or "fixed." Thus, it is important to understand what the difference between reasonable visitation and fixed visitation is.

If the judge awards a parent reasonable visitation, it is up to the parents to determine how visitation is to be allocated in the parenting plan. If the parents are on good enough terms to cooperate with one another, reasonable visitation can allow them to craft a personalized plan that allows for visitation periods that work with each parent's schedule.

However, in an award of reasonable visitation the custodial parent is not legally obligated to agree to visitation periods proposed by the noncustodial parent. This gives the custodial parent the upper hand in negotiations. But, if the custodial parent is being unreasonable or inflexible just as a means of getting back at their ex, the court will consider this if the noncustodial parent moves the court for changes in the future.

If the judge awards a parent fixed visitation, it is the judge that will set the times the noncustodial parent will enjoy visitation periods with the child. For example, the noncustodial parent might have visitation on certain weekday nights or every other weekend. Holidays can also be addressed through fixed visitation. If the parties clearly cannot cooperate with one another, courts may be more apt to award fixed visitation rather than reasonable visitation. Fixed visitation does have the advantage of being predictable and, thus, stable, which could benefit the child.

When parents divorce, any child custody and visitation decisions made must be in the best interests of the child. Therefore, whether the parents can work together could be the linchpin in determining whether the court will award reasonable visitation or fixed visitation. Each type of visitation has its pluses and minuses. Therefore, it is important for parents going through a divorce to understand the ways in which the court may handle visitation, so they can know what to expect.

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Coates & Davenport, P.C.
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Richmond, VA 23230

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