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The meaning of "reasonable visitation" in custody orders

When an Arizona court is making a child custody determination in a divorce proceeding, it might not make the matter of visitation very definable for the noncustodial parent. Instead, the court may give the noncustodial parent "reasonable visitation" rights in the order. Generally, this means that both parents are left to decide a parental visitation schedule themselves.

An order that includes reasonable visitation gives the parents flexibility on when their child spends time with the noncustodial parent, allowing them to choose times that best fit their daily schedules. However, the custodial parent typically retains more influence and power over the terms of the visitation arrangement. The law does not require the custodial parent to consent to any schedule that the noncustodial parent proposes.

The court, however, could take any of the custodial parent's malicious or inflexible actions into account at a subsequent hearing. This is why the parents have to be able to cooperate and talk with each other rationally for reasonable visitation to work. Parents who know that this will be impossible should notify the court and petition for a fixed visitation plan prior to the court issuing an order. Conversely, while it could appear at the time of finalizing a child custody order that both parents are capable of amicably deciding on a visitation schedule, it does not always work out as planned. Parents who find out that reasonable visitation is not working for their circumstances could return to court with a request for different visitation terms.

Having reasonable visitation as part of a child custody order could be very beneficial for some parents but not for others, particularly when the parents do not get along. Parents who are unsure about whether reasonable visitation will fit their lives might seek advice from family law attorneys.

Source: Findlaw, "The judge mentioned "reasonable visitation," what does that mean?", January 07, 2015

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