In most SC divorce cases where children are involved, a visitation schedule will be incorporated into the court’s custody order.
If one parent has sole physical custody, the other parent is ordinarily entitled to reasonable visitation. In most cases, the court will follow the standard child visitation schedule if the parents do not propose their own visitation schedule.
But what if you want to spend more time with your child? What if the standard visitation schedule is not enough?
There may be other options – in this article, we will discuss:
- Child custody and child visitation,
- The “standard” child visitation schedule,
- When the noncustodial parent may be entitled to increased visitation, and
- When shared or joint custody may be appropriate.
How to Make a Child Visitation Schedule
Once you know the type of child custody arrangement you will have, you and the other parent will need to agree on a child visitation schedule (or the court will set a visitation schedule for you).
First, Who Gets Custody?
The most common child custody arrangement is where one parent has sole physical custody and the other parent has reasonable visitation.
This is where child custody, child support, and visitation schedules intersect…
Child custody and child visitation can be seen as a “sliding scale” that may also affect the amount of child support that the noncustodial parent must pay – the more time the child spends with the noncustodial parent, the less child support the noncustodial parent is expected to pay until you reach joint custody, where the child spends an equal amount of time with each parent.
As parents move from sole custody to joint custody, the “visitation schedule” changes accordingly…
What is the “Standard” Child Visitation Schedule?
When one parent has sole physical custody of the child, while the other parent has reasonable visitation rights, the parents will often agree to (or the family court will often order) what is sometimes called the “standard” child visitation schedule which includes some variation of:
- Visitation every other weekend from Friday evening through Sunday evening,
- Visitation every other Wednesday (or another convenient day) after school until 8:00 p.m.,
- Four weeks of visitation during the summer break, and
- Alternating holidays throughout the year.
The details can change from case to case depending on the needs of the child and parents. But what can you do if you want to spend more time with your child, you are able to do so, and it is in your child’s best interests?
What if You Want to Spend More Time with Your Child?
Every case does not have to follow the format of the standard visitation schedule, although it works best for many families.
SC law on child custody and visitation allows for more flexible arrangements – from sole custody to shared custody – when the family court agrees that it is in the child’s best interests, and SC courts have approved increased visitation time when it is justified.
Whether you follow the standard visitation schedule or adopt a modified visitation schedule based on your family’s unique circumstances, your visitation schedule should include detailed information about:
- Where the child will live on weekdays and weekends during the school year,
- When the noncustodial parent will have the child for visitation and where they will be living,
- Where the child will live during the summer months,
- Where the child will stay during winter break and spring break,
- A holiday schedule that specifies which parent will take the child for each holiday of the year, and
- Who will transport the child for visitation and pay for transportation costs.
Shared Custody Arrangements
If the parents’ time is split 50/50 with their child, the “visitation schedule” becomes a “joint” or “shared” custody agreement that the family court will approve if the court finds that it is in the child’s best interests.
In most cases, the courts frown on shared custody agreements and will find that sole physical custody + a standard visitation schedule is in the child’s best interests. When it is in the child’s best interests to increase visitation, however, the courts should approve a modified visitation schedule.
Paparella v. Paparella: Increased Visitation
For example, in Paparella v. Paparella, the SC Court of Appeals ordered increased visitation for a father when:
- The mother admitted that the father should have more visitation than the standard visitation schedule allowed,
- Before the parents’ separation, the father was involved in raising the children and their day-to-day activities,
- While married, the parents arranged their schedule to alternate staying home and caring for the children while the other parent was working.
Although the family court ordered standard visitation for the father – alternate weekends, one week at Christmas, four weeks in the summer, and alternating holidays, the Court of Appeals found that it was in the children’s best interests for the father to have increased visitation:
As with child custody, the welfare and best interests of the child are the primary considerations in determining visitation….
Under the circumstances, we agree with father that he should be allowed more visitation with the children.
The Court of Appeals modified the visitation schedule to provide for visitation:
- Every other weekend, beginning Friday afternoon after school and ending Monday morning when they return to school (instead of Sunday evening),
- Every other Thursday, beginning after school until they return to school Friday morning,
- Every other Tuesday, beginning after school until they return to school Wednesday morning,
- One-half of the children’s summer vacation instead of four weeks, and
- Alternating holidays.
The Court also encouraged the parents each to leave the children with the other parent when they were working rather than hiring a babysitter or daycare services.
The bottom line is that the family court will ordinarily find that sole physical custody + the standard visitation schedule is in the child’s best interests.
But, when the noncustodial parent can demonstrate that they have been more actively involved in the day-to-day raising of their children, the court may find that it is in the child’s best interests to grant additional visitation rights in an expanded visitation schedule.
Questions about the standard visitation schedule in SC?
If you are considering separation or divorce and there are children involved, your Myrtle Beach child custody lawyer on the Axelrod team may be able to help.