When one parent in a divorce or separation gains sole legal custody of the child, the noncustodial parent is usually granted visitation rights. However, Pennsylvania readers may be unaware that there are many different types of visitation orders, each with their own benefits and drawbacks. The type of visitation implemented in a given situation usually depends on how matters stand between the custodial parent, the noncustodial parent and the child.
Reasonable visitation is the most flexible, and it is most commonly ordered when the parents are capable of cooperating with each other and setting their own visitation schedule. A specific schedule, often requiring a court order, is simpler to enforce and requires much less contact between the parents. Complete denial of visitation is generally only used in extreme cases where the court determines that any contact between a child and a noncustodial parent would be harmful. Instead, courts tend to order supervised visitation for difficult situations.
Supervised visitation is an option that protects the child's safety in cases where parental substance abuse, domestic violence between parents or allegations of child abuse is a factor. Supervised visitation can range from one-on-one visitation under the observation of a neutral third party to mere exchange supervision where a supervisor is only present when the child is transferred between parents.
When determining custody and visitation, a judge will consider several factors, including the child's best interests. A lawyer might be able to assist a parent through court proceedings as well as help negotiate a visitation schedule that is fair to both parents.
Source: American Bar Association , "A Judge's Guide on Making Child-Centered Decisions in Custody Cases", November 19, 2014