As much as family law courts want to provide children with a balanced amount of time between parents after they separate, it is not always possible. Whether because of work schedules, proximity, living situations or other factors, it is common for one Pennsylvania parent to obtain custody and the other to receive visitation rights. When this happens, noncustodial parents would be wise to know and protect their rights and take advantage of every opportunity with the children.
The court will provide or approve a visitation schedule for the noncustodial parent. The parent should make every effort to comply with that schedule and make the most of it. Noncustodial parents who miss visitation, arrive late or make frequent changes to the schedule may have a difficult time defending their custody rights if they seem unwilling to protect those rights. During visitation, the child’s best interests should be top priority, including:
- Making sure one’s home is safe and comfortable for the child
- Providing healthy food while the child is visiting and keeping the child’s favorite snacks on hand
- Planning special activities or discussions with the child
- Making sure the child has a special, private place to identify as his or her own, especially an older child on overnight visits
As difficult as it may be to have visitation instead of custody, cooperation with the custodial parent and compliance with the court order is critical. It is one way for a parent to prove his or her dedication to the best interests of the child. Nevertheless, that does not mean a noncustodial parent does not have rights, and for the protection of those rights, many Pennsylvania parents seek the advice of an attorney.