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What is reasonable versus fixed visitation?

Photo of Karen Lavin

Dealing with the realities of a parenting plan can be difficult to wrap one's head around, especially if you are unfamiliar with some of the terms used in a judge's custody decree. Two terms that often cause some friction between parents working to abide by a custody agreement are "reasonable visitation" and "fixed visitation."

Reasonable visitation can be a frustratingly vague concept, but the good news is that if a judge has used this term in your custody decree, then it is likely because he or she believes that you and your former spouse are able to work together in an ongoing manner to create a functional plan for you child. In theory, reasonable visitation is a flexible scenario that can mean just about anything that the two parents can agree on. Unfortunately, the reality of the matter is that the parent with primary custody generally can refuse to abide by terms that he or she does not favor. If a judge observes that the parent with primary custody is being unnecessarily inflexible, it may affect later judgements.

Fixed visitation, on the other hand, is much more clearly defined. A judge will issue fixed visitation terms if it appears to the court that two parents cannot agree, or if one parent is particularly problematic. Fixed visitation generally leaves very little room for interpretation in the orders, and will usually specify times and even places that a parent may enjoy custody of a child.

If you are working through your custody decree and finding it difficult to implement, you may want to seek an adjustment, or simply have a legal professional assist you in interpreting it safely. With proper guidance from an experienced attorney, you can fully understand the terms of your custody agreement or seek to have it modified, ensuring that your rights remain protected.

Source: Findlaw, "Parental Visitation Rights FAQ," accessed Feb. 16, 2017

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