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Making Visitation Work After Divorce

Whether or not a divorce has been contentious, ultimately families must continue with their day-to-day lives. However, if children are part of the equation, post-divorce complications can erupt with regard to visitation; but fostering beneficial parent-child relationships does not have to evolve into a new battlefield for estranged couples.

Continuity in parent-child relationships is important to the social and mental health of a child or children. Some studies indicate that positive parental relationships, which include effective communication, generally result in continued non-custodial parental involvement. Parental involvement, in turn, contributes to lower juvenile drop-out, as well as lower crime and substance abuse rates.

During a divorce, the groundwork for beneficial and meaningful visitation between child and non-custodial parents is laid. Parents can agree on guidelines for visitation and mediation can help with this process. In the absence of agreements, court orders can also detail holidays, weekends, and even summer vacations that can be shared with parents.

Generally, visitation plans developed through open discussion and with minimal hostility have the potential for success. Parents should weigh their child’s interests, mental and physical health needs, educational needs, and developmental age when devising a workable visitation schedule.

With a framework in place, parents – custodial and non-custodial – should work to establish ground rules for visits and consistency in schedules. While flexibility is important when emergencies arise, availability is just as important. Parents should never use visitation as a means to undermine or sabotage the other parent’s relationship with their child.

Once plans are developed, they will continue to be a work in progress as the needs of the child change or the circumstances of the parents change. Job loss, changes in the parental relationship, schedules, or even residences can impact the nature of visitation.

Parents should remember to put the needs of their children first and think “outside the box” for unique solutions. For instance, if distance may complicate face-to-face contact, then utilize technology, such as social networking and webcams, to increase visits.

It’s important to remember that non-custodial parents have a great deal of impact on their children’s future. Fostering a positive and meaningful relationship between noncustodial parents and their kids is one way of ensuring that children grow into healthy and happy adults.