What Does "Reasonable Visitation" Mean?

Imagine you've received your child custody orders from a New York court. However, the orders aren't clear. Instead of offering clear guidelines about how the noncustodial parent will visit with his or her child, the orders simply award the noncustodial parent "reasonable visitation" rights.

Reasonable visitation rights generally mean that the parents will be able to decide how to organize visitations between themselves.

When do courts award "reasonable visitation"?

Receiving an award of "reasonable visitation" from a court can be viewed positively because parents will have the right to create their own visitation schedules as they deem appropriate. Parents will be able to consider their own schedules, the schedules of the other parent and the needs of their children when establishing their visitation arrangements.

In most cases, courts will not award reasonable visitation unless the court believes that both parents are mature enough, and able to cooperate with one another. Generally, parents prefer these arrangements because of the freedom it affords.

The custodial parent will have more power

It's important to note that the parent with custodial rights will usually have a higher level of power and influence in defining what "reasonable visitation" looks like. That said, if the custodial parent becomes unreasonable or inflexible, it could give rise to disagreements and a family court judge might be willing to intervene to ensure that the noncustodial parent receives fair and reasonable visitation.

Parents who receive an award of reasonable visitation may want to keep a parenting log to record how much time they spend with their children. In the event that the time they are permitted to spend with their children continues to get less and less during the years after they receive their award, it may be a sign that it's time to reassert their parental rights. Although legal action could prove effective in this regard, parents may also want to consider a family mediation process to assist them in reaching common ground with the other parent of their children.