Visitation: Where it all begins
No parent thinks of visitation until the separation/divorce starts. Before you separate, you don’t even think about the amount of time you spend with your children. Once you start the separation/divorce process then it becomes an issue.
I always thought child custody/visitation and divorce should be separate proceedings. The first thing that should occur is a determination of custody and then a parenting plan established. After and only after that is settled should the rest of the divorce be allowed to proceed. The current system sets up families to battle over custody and visitation and makes it a very contentious process.
Some but certainly not all parents end up using custody and visitation as a bargaining chip. These are your children and although you love and adore them suddenly they become pawns in your divorce. Children are promised things they will never get, asked to choose between their parents, used as a trade off for items in the divorce and unfortunately used to punish the other parent.
Once you separate, work out custody and visitation first. Once it is established the rest of your divorce can proceed and the children are spared being in the middle of it all. If you can’t work it out then it will be decided by a family law judge. You know what is best for your children even through the anger, disappointment and sometimes hatred, you do know what is in their best interest don’t leave it up to a judge.
If you leave it up to a judge you will be granted basic visitation rights and custody will usually go to the mother (I disagree with the standard but it still prevails). The standard local visitation is normally every other weekend and split holidays. The standard long distance visitation is normally the summer and major holidays going to the non-custodial parent. If you don’t like that set up…work it out with your spouse.
Custody/visitation is a two step process. First you create the plan and then you live it.