Thomas F. McDow IV’s “Standard” Visitation Schedule

If you attended yesterday’s guardian ad litem training you were privileged to see Thomas F. McDow, IV, present on visitation scheduled.  The first part of his presentation critiqued the typical “standard” visitation schedule.  The second part presented his version of an ideal “standard” visitation schedule that corrected, in his view, the numerous flaws in the typical schedule.  This visitation schedule appeared to work very well in his own divorce.

A number of his suggested alterations to the standard schedule are thought, and possibly argument, provoking.  His schedule, with footnotes, can be downloaded in Word Perfect format here.

The text, with footnote explanations, is below:

Standard Visitation Schedule Recommended by Thomas F. McDow[1]

The noncustodial parent shall have such visitation as the parties may agree.[2] If the parties are unable to agree, then the following visitation schedule shall apply.[3]

Weekends

If the noncustodial parent is the father, then he shall have visitation on the first and third weekends of each month from 6:00 p.m. Friday until 6:00 p.m. Sunday. If there is a federal holiday or a holiday at the school attended by the child, then the weekend shall be extended to include the holiday.  For example, if Friday is a holiday, then visitation would start Thursday at 6:00 p.m. and if Monday is a holiday, then visitation would end Monday at 6:00 p.m. The noncustodial parent shall also have the fifth weekends during the first and third quarters of each year.

If the noncustodial parent is the mother, then she shall have visitation on the second and fourth weekends of each month from 6:00 p.m. Friday until 6:00 p.m. Sunday. If there is a federal holiday or a holiday at the school attended by the child, then the weekend shall be extended to include the holiday.  For example, if Friday is a holiday, then visitation would start Thursday at 6:00 p.m. and if Monday is a holiday, then visitation would end Monday at 6:00 p.m. The noncustodial parent shall also have the fifth weekends during the second and fourth quarters of each year.

The first weekend is any weekend on which Friday falls on the first through the seventh days of the month, the second weekend is any weekend on which Friday falls on the eighth through the fourteenth days of the month, the third weekend is any weekend on which Friday falls on the fifteenth through twenty-first days of the month, the fourth weekend is any weekend on which Friday falls on the twenty-second through twenty-eighth days of the month, and the fifth weekend is any weekend on which Friday falls on the twenty-ninth through thirty-first days of the month. The first quarter includes the January, February, and March; the second quarter includes April, May, and June; the third quarter includes July August, and September; and the fourth quarter includes October, November and December.

Spring Break
The (custodial)(noncustodial)[4] parent shall have the spring break from 6:00 p.m. the last day of school until 6:00 p.m. the day before school resumes.  This overrides the regular weekend schedule.

Thanksgiving Holiday The (custodial)(noncustodial)[5] parent shall have the Thanksgiving Holiday from 6:00 p.m. the last day of school until 6:00 p.m. the day before school resumes.  This overrides the regular weekend schedule.

Christmas Vacation

The custodial parent shall have exclusive custody from 2:00 p.m. December 18 until 2:00 p.m. Christmas Day. This overrides the regular weekend visitation schedule.[6]

The noncustodial parent shall have from 2:00 p.m. Christmas Day until 2:00 p.m. New Year’s Day.  This overrides the regular weekend visitation scheduled.

Summer Vacation

The noncustodial parent shall have (four)(five)(six)[7] consecutive weeks visitation with the children commencing with that parents first weekend visitation at the end of the school year and ending on Sunday at 6:00 p.m. (four)(five)(six) weeks later, except that the custodial parent shall have the weekends that he or she would have had on the weekend schedule above.

Transportation

Unless the parties agree otherwise, all exchanges for custody and visitation shall occur at the homes of the parties.  The noncustodial parent shall pick up the child at the home of the custodial parent at the beginning of visitation. The custodial parent shall pick up the child at the home of the noncustodial parent at the conclusion of visitation.
_________________________________________

[1] This visitation schedule is for most parties who live within a reasonable driving distance of each other. It may be varied to meet the needs of the parties.  For example, if the parents live too great a distance from each other to make weekend travel feasible, then the weekends may need to be reduced and the holiday visitation may need to be increased.

[2] I counsel my clients that visitation schedules are for bad parents because good parents are able to agree on variances that meet the needs of the children and the parties.

[3] Because this schedule is designed for use only where the parties are unable to agree, it has two purposes. First, to minimize the number of exchanges of the child for visitation, thus reducing the stress on both the parents and the child. Mid-week and other short visitations are omitted to reduce exchanges and stress. Second, to provide a reasonable schedule that is easily interpreted by the parents and allows them to make plans and develop family traditions.

[4] One parent will get the spring break every year. The other parent will get the Thanksgiving holiday every year. This allows the mother’s family and the father’s family to develop a holiday tradition.One parent will get the spring break every year. The other parent will get the Thanksgiving holiday every year. This allows the mother’s family and the father’s family to develop a holiday tradition.

[5] One parent will get the Thanksgiving holiday every year. The other parent will get the spring break every year. This allows the mother’s family and the father’s family to develop a holiday tradition.

[6] This allows the child to wake up every Christmas morning in his or her bed at the place he or she considers home.

[7] The number of weeks needs to be determined but more weeks are encouraged. This proposed schedule omits midweek visitations, children’s and parents’ birthdays, Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, and all of the other short visitations that require an additional exchange and place unnecessary stress on children and parents. The noncustodial parent is compensated for that mostly meaningless time with additional time in the summer. Also note that the custodial parent will have visitation during this period so that a six week visitation period is reduced by six-days of weekend visitation, reducing the noncustodial parent’s time by almost a week.

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  • Roy Stuckey

    McDow’s visitation schedule reflects the common sense for which he is well known. As he says, however, rigid schedules are for parents who cannot cooperate very well with each other. I do not agree with him that such parents should be labeled “bad parents.” And I wonder whether noncustodial parents should be entitled to McDow’s or any other liberal visitation schedule if they were nonchalant about their parenting responsibilities during the marriage. And the ages and desires of the children can make a big difference in defining “appropriate visitation.” I don’t have a better proposal, but I am wary of any one-shoe-fits-all approach, although I like McDow’s approach better than what most family court judges are awarding.

    Changing the subject slightly, have the family courts begun defining appropriate limits to virtual visitation, e.g., twitter, texting, phone calls, video conferencing, etc.? I can imagine situations in which a noncustodial parent’s contacts with children between physical visits could be harmful to the children, or at least disruptive to the custodial parent’s home life.

    • Robert Barber

      How are virtual visits disruptive, most custodial parents do not have that much going on to where they should have to limit that. I would be willing to bet if the situation was reversed he or she would feel a lot differently. Fact is most mothers get awarded the child only because they are the mother period. The only time the Father gets the child or children is if he has the money to sue her, which is what I did, and I won. I won because the mother is a terrible mother and made poor choices in her life and she simply cannot afford to fight me in the court room. However, I didn’t get virtual visitation anyway, not because it was so called ” disruptive” but because the mother was so broke she couldn’t afford internet although I paid her a good bit in child support. But that child support went to taking care of all the other children she had that she couldn’t afford. Myself being in the Military I had the money to sue her, but I simply could not do it because of my military obligations. So my vistiation would only have been FaceTime or Skype had her mother allowed it or had access. So there is no one shoe fits all, thank God we have custody now, but only because I medically retired due to me becoming an above knee amputee. This woman is so low she actually tried to use my service connected disability as a strategy to keep me from having my daughter, saying because I’m an amputee that I am not capable of taking care of her. Really, then how do I take care my other two with my current wife of 11 years. Everyones situation is different, but I do not agree with limiting virtual visitation the more contact they have with BOTH parents the better, even if can’t stand her guts.

  • My belated thanks to Mr. Stuckey and others for their contributions to the March 31, 2006 draft on Best Practices For Legal Education.

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