How to Set up a Visitation Schedule

Setting up a proper visitation schedule can help alleviate some of the stress and struggle of sharing custody. Raising children while living in separate households can be a challenge, but with proper planning and respect for all parties, it can be managed in a manner that is favorable for everyone involved.


When it comes to setting up a fair visitation schedule with your ex, it’s important to be as detailed as possible in order to ensure that everyone is in agreement. Whether the separation was amicable or a bit rocky, figuring out what to do during summer breaks, weekends, and vacations well in advance can help limit confusion ahead of time.

To ensure visitation agreements are executed without a hitch, a preparation plan, strict adherence to rules, and attention to specific considerations can help.

  • Check with your state or county to see if there are tools available to help you establish a proper, compliant visitation schedule.

  • Review state guidelines containing visitation rules for children in specific age groups.

  • Create a standard visitation schedule before addressing vacations and holidays. This basic schedule can help you focus on what the most optimal schedule is for day-to-day management.

  • Your child’s wants and needs should be factored in to every decision. If a specific visitation schedule would unreasonably disrupt their emotional, physical, or social needs, reconsider the decision.  

  • Determine if there are specific restrictions that should be enforced, such as restricting visitation in specific areas or homes, or with certain people.

  • Any modifications to the schedule should be discussed in advance. It may be helpful to instill a limit on just how far in advance a modification can be reasonably requested by either party (with the exception of emergencies).

  • It’s ok to remain flexible. If you and your ex are on good terms, then neither parent should feel required to nail down every hour of their custody. Flexibility can be maintained as long as it serves all parties equally.

  • Ask the children. Perhaps the child or children have a favorite holiday or vacation with one parent, or they prefer certain weekends or special events at one location rather than another. Although it is important for each parent to feel that they are receiving their fair share of visitation time, children should have an equal voice in the decision-making process wherever possible.

  • Keep child support and child visitation as separate matters. Neither parent should punish the other by means of restricting visitation. Even if emotions are running high, it’s important to help your children maintain a positive relationship with both parents.  In addition to being unfair to the children, the withholding parent can also find themselves in significant legal trouble.

  • At all times, keep in mind your state custody guidelines and the decisions of the court. If you need exceptions, make sure they are legally cleared well in advance of executing on those decisions.

  • Make revisions where appropriate. If the visitation schedule is consistently being adjusted because it is not working for one parent or the other, or the child’s social or educational obligations are getting in the way, it may be time to make a permanent modification to the visitation schedule so that it more accurately reflects reality.

Every custody situation and visitation schedule is different, and what may work for one set of parents and their children may not work for another. But that doesn’t mean that any schedule is necessarily wrong. When setting up your visitation schedule, try to remain as objective as possible, follow all legal guidelines, and plan your exceptions in advance wherever possible.

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