What is “Parenting Time?”
Technically, “parenting time” is a newer, more family friendly term for “visitation.” When a family separates, the parents have to make a decision regarding how they will spend time with their children. Visitation can vary, depending on various factors (such as custody rights).
Parenting Time or Visitation.
In the state of California, there are four types of visitations.
- Scheduled visitation: Parents may work with the court system to come up with a series of dates and specific times for the children to spend time with parents. Holidays or important family dates can often be included.
- Reasonable visitation: This type of visitation is very flexible. It allows the parents to work out a schedule on their own, without a court’s help, concerning when the children can see their parents. If the parents get along well, this option can be very useful —however, if the parents come into conflict regularly, this type of visitation can be difficult for the family.
- Supervised visitation: If a parent doesn’t have custody, if there are any doubts concerning a child’s safety around a parent, or if a child hasn’t spent much time around a parent, then supervised visitation may be ordered by a court. Supervised visitation involves having a third party — a family member, another adult or a professional third party — to observe the parent and the child interacting during a set time.
- No visitation: The parent can’t see or spend time with his or her children at all — not even with supervision.
When Should Parenting Time Occur?
That depends entirely on visitation rights. If you have scheduled visitation rights, then you must respect the schedule set in place by the courts.
As long as you’re gainfully employed, and all parties involved are aware of when and where parenting time will occur (including the court system, in specific instances) and the children feel safe, then parenting time can be held in various locations, such as a home.
Where Should Parenting Time Occur?
With supervised parenting time, things are different. With supervised parenting time, a parent can only spend time with a child in specific locations at certain designated times — such as a supervised parenting center — and the occasion needs to be supervised by a third-party.
Certain activities may also be against the rules too. Supervised parenting time is also organized under a strict schedule: parents cannot be late and must respect the rules set down by the court system and the third-party observer.
What Should I Look for in a Supervised Parenting Program?
You have two options: You can have a nonprofessional provider or a professional one. The court will notify you concerning which options are available, depending on your situation.
A nonprofessional provider can be a friend or family member (must be an adult), while a professional provider is someone who’s hired specifically for this situation.
Both have to follow strict visitation guidelines. If there are doubts about whether or not a child will be safe with a parent, then a nonprofessional provider will not be allowed.
If you’re searching for a supervised parenting program, it’s best to come up with a list of several providers or centers in your area. Interview each provider and ask these specific questions:
- What are your fees? And which payment methods do you accept?
- What are your hours of operation, and what sort of security measures do you have in place?
- What are the reasons for ending or interrupting a scheduled visit?
- What activities can I not do with the child?
- What are your program’s conditions and guidelines?
How Can Parents Make Parenting Time Safer?
There are a number of ways that a parent can make parenting time safer:
- Third-party supervision could be acquired for guaranteed safety.
- All court orders should be respected and followed.
- All parties should be aware of all locations and activities planned for parenting times.
What Should Children be Told About Parenting Time?
No matter the child’s age, parents should treat their children exactly as they would under normal conditions. Age-appropriate (and possible court specified) activities should be planned in advance, and all set times should be respected and followed closely.
- Parenting time should remain positive. Keep things upbeat and focus on enjoying one another’s company. But if the child needs to talk about something important, then make sure to do so. Remember, positive affection (such as saying “I love you”) is key.
- Divorce or separation can be painful. But, do not discuss the separation with the child, and if it does come up, try to be as positive and as constructive as possible. No matter what your feelings might be regarding the matter, your child is still involved with your partner on an emotional level. Be respectful!
- Children are intelligent. If they want to talk about the separation, or why the court had to set up visitation rights, do not try to dumb down your explanations. Be honest. However, in order to keep things constructive, try to be as positive and as straightforward as possible. Do not insult anyone involved in the process, and reinforce that the child, no matter what, will always have a family to turn to.
About the Author
Christie Hopkins has personal and professional ties to the Family Law industry. She has extensive experience working with families going through child custody disputes. Christie approached Family Law with attentiveness and care to ensure both parties feel valued and heard.