Visitation and Visitation Issues
By Maury D. Beaulier, Esq.
A parent that is not awarded physical custody has a visitation schedule.†
Often when a parent is awarded visitation rather than physical custody, they
feel as if they are being characterized as an inferior parent.† That is not what
"visitation" was intended to mean.† Nonetheless, over the years, that stigma has
been attached to it.† It is often better to think of custody and visitation
schedules as parenting schedules rather than becoming caught up in labels.†
Currently, there is legislation being considered in Minnesota to remove many of
these emotionally laden labels in order to concentrate on parenting schedules
SPECIFIC SCHEDULES PREFERRED.
Under the current system, Minnesota Statutes prefer that Courts enter orders
with specific visitation schedules to avoid disputes rather than leaving the
issues open. Parents may agree on any schedule that serves the childís best
interests. Moreover the parents may modify any schedule after a divorce so long
as they both agree. A good way to think of a visitation schedule is to view it
as a safety net in the event the parents cannot agree in the future. In such an
instance, it becomes a reference point with black and white details. Generally
speaking, the court will not disturb an agreement reached by the parents.
COURT ORDERED SCHEDULES.
If the parties are unable to reach a visitation agreement, the Court will
craft its own schedule. Oftentimes, Court ordered schedules do not make either
party happy which results in later disputes. As a result, it is usually in the
best interests of the child(ren) and the parents if agreement on a schedule is
reached. If left up to the courts, you are likely to see a common boilerplate
schedule similar to the following:
Weekly Schedule: Alternating weekends from Friday - Sunday and
one evening per week.
Holiday Schedule: The parties shall alternate legal holidays
including Christmas Eve Day, Christmas Day, New Yearís Day, Easter
Weekend, Memorial day Weekend (Fri-Mon), Independence Day, Labor day
weekend (Fri - Mon), and Thanksgiving day. The child shall be with the
mother on motherís day and the father on fatherís day.
Extended Schedule: Each parent shall have two (sometimes up to
four) consecutive or non-consecutive weeks with the child each summer
upon 30 days advance written notice to the other party.
NON-PAYMENT OF CHILD SUPPORT AND VISITATION RIGHTS.
The Legal system treats visitation and child support as separate issues. MSA
518.175, Subd.1 specifically states that "a parentís failure to pay support
because of the parentís inability to do so shall not be sufficient cause for
denial of visitation."
DENIALS OF VISITATION.
A court may order make-up visits to compensate a person denied visitation.
The compensatory visitation should be of the same type and duration or greater
as the visitation that was missed. The Court may also:
party denying visitation to post a bond in order to ensure compliance; award
reasonable attorneys fee to the party denied visitation;;
require the party denying visitation to reimburse the other party for
change custody for unwarranted, continuous and systematic interference
award any other remedy that the Court deems reasonable. (MSA 518,175,
- impose a civil penalty of up to $500 on the party denying visitation.
(This civil penalty is paid to the Court, not the party that was denied
- find the party denying visitation in contempt of the Courtís order;
PARENT CARE VS. DAYCARE.
Minnesota Statutes 518.175, subd. 8, specifically allows a Court, in its
discretion, to allow a non-custodial parent additional visitation to provide
child care while the custodial parent is working. However, in making such a
determination, the Court must consider the parties ability to cooperate, whether
they have methods for resolving disputes, and whether domestic abuse has
DISPUTE RESOLUTION BY MEDIATORS AND VISITATION EXPEDITORS.
The Parties may agree or the Court may order the parties to mediate
visitation disputes or to submit those disputes to a visitation expeditor. The
records and statements made to a mediator or a visitation expeditor are
confidential and cannot be later used in Court. Moreover mediator and visitation
expeditors cannot be called as witnesses.
- A mediator helps the parties to communicate and resolve their
differences by agreement.
- A visitation expeditor, by contrast, may begin by attempting to
mediate the dispute. However, is a resolution is not reached, the expeditor
is authorized to settle disputes by enforcing, interpreting, clarifying or
addressing issues not specifically addressed by an existing order. A
visitation expeditor may be appointed to resolve a one time dispute or to
provide ongoing services. Generally speaking, use a visitation expeditor is
a fast and less costly way to resolve disputes. The costs are generally
divided between the parties.
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