When there are children involved in a divorce, it is unrealistic to expect that visitation arrangements will be set in stone throughout a child’s life. As the child grows from an infant to a teenager, parents will often make changes to child custody and visitation arrangements to meet their child’s needs. Parents who keep an open line of communication and are able to work together can often make appropriate changes simply by talking to the other parent. However, sometimes, a parent may need to work with an attorney to change a custody agreement to respond to a child’s changing needs.
If you are divorcing and you have an infant, for example, the parenting plan may shape up to include a non-custodial parent having more frequent, albeit shorter visits, instead of every other weekend. Generally, shorter visits may work best for infants, especially those who are nursing, but if you choose to alternate weekends and homes, be prepared to be flexible if a baby is having difficulty.
Toddlers are going through a lot of changes and can be sensitive to changes in their environment and shifting between caregivers. Separation anxiety can be made easier by building in more time for transitions and having regular contact with both parents. Communication between parents is key so that the approach to discipline, sleep schedules and other issues are relatively consistent for the child’s benefit.
When your child reaches preschool age, they will be more verbal and cognitive and can often begin to handle a typical visitation schedule, such as spending alternate weekends at the other parent’s home although a gradual approach is probably best. It is helpful if the other parent routinely has a weekly in- person contact with the child and that the child is able to communicate with either parent by telephone when in different settings.
When a child heads off to elementary school, the parents will want to make sure that school attendance is a priority. It is important that a child gets plenty of rest on school nights so overnights will likely be confined to weekends and holidays unless the parents live in close proximity to one another and the school. With the added responsibility of school, dialing down disruptions may require flexibility on the parents’ parts when working out a visitation schedule.
During the tween years, kids will likely be involved in more activities and have friends they want to hang out with while continuing to need a close relationship with both parents. You will want to continue to follow a schedule of course, but making sure both parents have built in time with the child and can share in their new interests is key.
The teen years requires more input from your child regarding the visitation schedule. Independence is important at this age and a teen will likely have more demands on their time such as homework, a job, friends, and other activities, in addition to an ongoing relationship with his or her parents. You will have to find a balance by supporting your child’s lifestyle but letting them know you both want to spend time with him or her even if it’s a matter of reserving a weekend or a couple of afternoons a month to spend with a parent.
Just because your child is 18, it is not over by a long shot. Adult children still need the love, support and continued presence of their parents. Parents should continue to show respect to the other parent in the child’s presence and both make an effort to be involved in their child’s adult life.
When trying to reach a custody and visitation arrangement in a divorce, it is important to be sensitive to your changing needs as they progress through childhood into adulthood. If you are considering divorce and have concerns about child custody and visitation contact the Wisconsin family law attorneys of Probst Law Offices at 414-210-3135.