While child custody and visitation will be determined as part of a divorce agreement, what happens to your children during the time you and your spouse are going through the divorce process?

Before and during your divorce, both you and your spouse have equal legal child custody rights unless you or your spouse gives up or is denied full custody rights by the court. That means you both have the same legal rights regarding where and with whom your children live, as well as any other decisions that impact your children. It is usually best not to leave the family residence until a parenting plan has been agreed upon in writing, or ordered by the court.

If you and your spouse have separate residences, you will need to establish a temporary visitation schedule shortly after your divorce suit has been filed. Typically, family courts grant non-custodial parents regular visitation during a divorce to maintain children’s relationship with both parents. However, if you and your spouse can’t agree on a visitation schedule, a judge will determine a temporary visitation schedule until a permanent custody and visitation arrangement is put into place.

Why Do We Need a Temporary Visitation Plan?
It’s important to create a child visitation schedule for the time during your divorce to ensure both you and your spouse are spending equal time with your children. A visitation plan will provide additional stability for your children by letting them know when and where they’ll be spending time with both you and your spouse. A visitation schedule also may help you avoid conflict with your spouse.

Depending on factors, such as age, your children may or may not have a say in what happens to them. Generally, children will stay in their home and continue going to the same schools. This can be especially beneficial for children, as it provides a sense of stability for them. During a divorce, children may blame themselves, which is why it’s also in the best interest of the children to continue spending time with both parents—separately or together, if circumstances allow.

What Should a Visitation Schedule Include?
One of the most important factors to consider when establishing a visitation plan is to create a schedule that causes as little disruption to your children’s lives. Both you and your spouse need to have regular visits with your children. This may be swapping every other weekend or a few days during the week. You should also specify the times for dropping off and picking up your children, and include plans for holidays and special occasions—such as birthdays, school vacations, and holidays.

Other details to include are the location(s) where you both will drop off or pick up your children,as well as who is allowed to drop off or pick up your children if either of you aren’t able to be present. This may also include schedules for driving your children to school or extracurricular activities.