Visitation refers to the time that the non-custodial parent has with their child.  More accurately, this should be called parenting time, since this is the non-custodial parent’s time to parent their child.

In a 2006 report from the Unified Court System it was recommended that the term “parenting time” be used instead of “visitation.”  The commission that prepared this report concluded that the term “visitation” was a negative one and compared it to the prison system where the term “visitation” also is used.   This nonsense aside, the fact of the matter is that when a child is with their parent, the parent is parenting their child.  They are setting an example.  They are offering attention, love, advice, help with homework, discipline, playing and interacting with their child.  In short, they are parenting.  Their time with their child as a matter of fact is parenting time.

Unfortunately, the term “visitation” still is used often.  “Parenting time” has yet to be used universally to refer to the time that the non-custodial parent spends with their child or children.  For people concerned with semantics, parenting time and visitation can be and are used interchangeably in New York divorce and family law practice.

Parenting time is not just a right of the non-custodial parent.  It really should be considered an obligation.  This is because parenting time is not just for the benefit of the non-custodial parent.  Parenting time benefits the child.

Courts have long held the obvious in this regard.  They recognize that the non-custodial parent still plays a very significant role in the life of a child.  The love, attention, guidance and nurturing that a parent gives a child, this parenting, all play a very important part in the emotional development of a child.  Their absence can create a void that cannot be filled by any substitute.

Accordingly, there is a legal presumption that parenting time is in the best interests of children.  The extent and duration of parenting time that is in the best interest of a child will vary depending on the specific facts of each case.  This will be discussed in depth later in this series.