Visitation rights: 5 helpful tips for structuring

Visitation rights are intended to ensure regular contact between separated parents and their children. But when does it actually come into play and what should parents take to heart when designing it. We have put together helpful tips on visitation rights for you.

Visitation rights – also known as visitation rights – state that children and parents have a right to mutual contact with one another. It is based on the idea that contact with both parents is important for a child’s development.

Visitation rights are particularly important when the parents are separated, for example after a divorce. The parent with whom the child lives must make contact with the other parent possible. The latter, in turn, has a duty to have regular contact with the child. Have a look at our article “What does right of access mean?” and find out more about the legal background of right of access and to which persons it can still apply.

Visitation rights are not the same as custody

Visitation rights exist independently of custody rights. Regardless of whether the parents have joint custody or one of them alone, visitation rights always exist.

Develop visitation rights

When visiting rights come into play, it is important to find a binding solution that ensures regular contact between the child and the parent with whom the child does not live. What is the best way to put this into practice? Here are our tips:

1) Consensual instead of judicial regulation

There is no legal regulation for the organization of the right of visitation. In the interest of everyone involved, parents should try to find an amicable solution that best suits their individual situation. This is not only in the interest of the child and the parent who is entitled to visit. An amicable visit arrangement can also provide relief for the parent with whom the child mainly lives.

If an agreement cannot be reached, for example with regard to the duration and times of the visit, the youth welfare office can offer support or put you in touch with a further advice centre. If the parents still cannot agree on visitation rights, the court can be involved. However, parents should think carefully about this step: a regulation established by a court may create a binding obligation, but it is not always in the interests of all those involved.

2) Orient visitation rights to the age of the child

There is no such thing as the perfect regulation for visiting rights; it always has to be found individually and adjusted if necessary. The age of the child provides a good orientation for structuring visitation rights:

  • Babies in their first year of life need special continuity. It is therefore advisable to carry out the visits in the familiar surroundings of the child. Visits should be frequent, eg weekly, but limited to a few hours.
  • Clearly regulated processes are important for small children. This also applies to visiting rights. Visits should be frequent and lasting several hours or throughout the day. Overnight stays with the parent who is entitled to visit are also conceivable, but there should already be a close bond. The same applies to a longer holiday stay.
  • In the case of school children, the established rule is recommended when it comes to visitation rights, according to which they spend every second weekend and part of the holidays with the parent who is entitled to visit. If the child has other wishes or other leisure activities during the visiting weekend, these should be taken into account and aligned with the visitation rights policy.
  • Young people often prefer to spend time with their peers than with their parents. This wish should be respected even in spite of the right to visit and a visit regulation should be based on it.

3) Consider degree of familiarity in visitation rights

The degree of intimacy between the child and the visiting parent should also be considered with regard to visitation rights. If, for example, the child is still very young at the time of the separation and a relationship with the parent who is entitled to visit has yet to be established, short visits make more sense than long ones. If the child and the visiting parent are just getting to know each other, it is also advisable to initially conduct the visits in a familiar environment.

4) Maintain continuity in visitation rights

When parents separate, it not only means a turning point for them, but also for their child. As part of a visitation arrangement, as little as possible should change in everyday life, especially for small children. For example, rituals when going to bed or eating, contact with friends or visits to grandparents should be maintained and also be possible during visiting hours. The more continuity there is for the child, the less the breakup will affect their well-being.

5) Take visitation rights slowly

When visitation rights come into play – whether because the parents have separated or the child and the visiting parent are getting to know each other – it takes time for everyone involved to adjust to the new situation. The visiting parent should not put themselves under pressure, for example because they feel they have to offer the child something during the visits. It is much more important to enjoy the time together and to strengthen the bond with each other – regardless of a special event.

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