When a couple separates, it is usually accompanied by the wish to have less contact with each other in the future. However, this is not so easy with couples who have children. If both parents want to be involved in the children’s lives after the separation, it is necessary to discuss and exchange ideas and to find solutions together. There are many myths surrounding custody and visitation rights, and these are also frequent topics of conflict. In the best case, parents can come to an amicable agreement. If the courts have to be involved in custody and visitation issues, this is often suboptimal. Frequent questions that may arise in the case of separated parents with joint children are:
How much visitation rights are normal?
Unfortunately, in many cases there are bitter disputes about the extent of visitation. In other words, the question of who sees the children how often. Opinions often diverge as to who mainly took care of the children until the separation. If the parents cannot, the competent court has to make a decision. The court focuses on the best interests of the child and tries to find the best solution in the child’s interest. In doing so, the court works closely with the family court assistance, which consists of qualified psychologists, educators and social workers. Under certain circumstances, other experts may also be consulted in order to find out which contact rights would best suit the child. Such proceedings often cause anxiety not only for the parents concerned, but are also stressful for the children.
There is no universal answer as to what constitutes a “normal right of contact”. It always depends on the individual case. If possible, the visits should include free time as well as the child’s everyday life and no parent should not be forced into the role of an “occasional visitor”. Basically, when courts have to decide, it depends on how old the child is on the one hand, and on the other hand,who has taken care of the child up to now and how much. With young children, the tendency is to recommend shorter and more frequent visits. The older the child, the more the child’s wishes have to be taken into account. What often further fuels the debate between parents is the fact that the amount of child support is also related to the extent of visitation. In principle, 80 days per year are maintenance-neutral, i.e. they do not influence the amount of child support that has to be paid. If the parent who does not mainly take care of the children has a lot of visiation- child support may also be reduced.
Who has to pick up or bring the children ?
Especially if the parents do not live close to each other, there are often different ideas regarding the place where the child’s handovers should take place. According to case law, the parent who has the visitation right with the child must pick up the child from his or her permanent place of residence and return it there. However, the child does not have to be picked up and brought personally. If, for example, the children live with the mother and are with the father every second weekend, the father must in principle pick up the children from the mother and bring them back. This also applies if the distance is longer. In exceptional cases, however, if there are special circumstances, a court may also order the parent with whom the children mainly stay to bring the children to the contact parent. However, this must not become an unreasonable burden for the main caring parent.
Who bears the costs for activities during visitation?
The costs associated with visitation have to be paid by the person who is not the main parent. Such expenses can be, for example, travel costs, but also expenses for second and replacement clothing, additional toys or costs for leisure activities (tickets to the zoo, cinema tickets, etc.). These costs have to be covered by the parent who has the right of visitation and cannot be charged to the main parent.
Read more about the withdrawal of the visitation rights here.