There are two parts to any custody proceeding, the first being the issue of custody itself and the second being the issue of parenting time, or visitation rights, for the non-custodial parent. In most cases, the non-custodial parent will be awarded a “standard” parenting time schedule, which generally consists of alternating weekends and one or two dinner visits per week with the children. However, there are circumstances under which such a schedule is either impracticable, or not in the best interests of the children, and alternatives are utilized.
Examples of alternative parenting time or visitation arrangements include supervised parenting time, which can be supervised by either a mutually agreed upon third party, or at a parenting time facility, such as EAC network. Additionally, if the non-custodial parent has been absent from the child’s life for a period of time, or if there are underlying issues between the non-custodial parent and the child, the Court can order therapeutic visitation, which means that the non-custodial parent and the child will participate in therapy together and/or separately. In situations where there are existing Orders of Protection, or the parents have a volatile relationship, the Court can direct that the exchange of the children for the non-custodial parent’s parenting time take place at a neutral location, or, that a third party conduct the exchange. Where the non-custodial parent lives a substantial distance from the home of the children (such as out of State), the non-custodial parent may be awarded substantial parenting time during the children’s summer vacation period and/or other school recess periods.
As always, the paramount concern in any child custody and/or visitation proceeding is the best interests of the child. If the Court finds that the children’s best interests are not served by visitation with the non-custodial parent, then, it has the authority to revoke, restrict or suspend such parenting time. The Court does not, however, have the authority to revoke, restrict or suspend the non-custodial parent’s parenting time for failure to pay child support, which means that parenting time must take place regardless of any child support arrears which may exist.
Non-custodial parents are awarded parenting time and/or visitation rights in custody and divorce proceedings, regardless of their marital status.