Divorced or separated parents usually have a court order that specifies when each parent will get to exercise their parenting time with the children. However, the exact stipulations can vary greatly depending on the individual case. Two popular options are fixed and reasonable visitation, but it’s important to understand the difference between the two and what it means for your ability to exercise parenting time.

Fixed visitation is the more commonly known of the two and is the traditional outcome where the noncustodial parent is given a specific parenting time schedule. The minimum for this in most cases is a couple of hours during one week night and every other weekend. Holidays are also usually predetermined by a schedule under a fixed visitation order. However, the time granted may be much more than this, even up to a week-on-week-off schedule. The important thing here is that there is some kind of set schedule.

Reasonable visitation means that the exact terms of the parenting time schedule are left up to the parents and may be changed per agreement as time moves on. This is more commonly used in cases where the parents have demonstrated an ability to work together and communicate in a way that supports the best interests of the children. The custodial parent usually has more bargaining power in these situations, but if there are issues, either parent can go back to the courts to ask for a fixed schedule.

Any time you are dealing with a custody issue or a problem with the parenting time schedule, it’s important to understand how and when the courts may become involved. A family law attorney can help you get a better idea of the options for your scenario.

Source: FindLaw, “Parental Visitation Rights FAQ,” accessed Jan. 14, 2016