Visitation Schedules in Maryland

There is no standard visitation schedule in the Maryland courts. The standard schedule used to be every other weekend from Friday evening until Sunday evening, alternating holidays, and two weeks for a vacation each summer. This is the schedule that is commonly referred to as a "weekend dad" schedule, and for years that is exactly what it created, a weekend dad. More common today is a schedule that includes one or two evening visits, and often includes an overnight during the week. The weeknight visit is usually on the "off week" when the parent does not receive a weekend visit, so that the child spends time in each parents' home at least once a week. In addition, the weekend visit is frequently extended until Monday morning, so that parent can take the children to school on Monday morning.

In addition, many parents are agreeing to divide the summer on a weekly basis. Some also agree that the parent who did not have the children during the school year will have them the majority of the summer. This may involve flipping the schedule during the summer, or giving the parent who did not have them during the school year the entire summer, reserving the first and last week for the other parent.

Holidays can also be a major concern in establishing a visitation schedule. Usually the "minor federal holidays" (ie. Presidents Day, Columbus Day, Labor Day, etc.) will follow the weekend, so whichever parent had the children for that weekend will keep them until Monday night or Tuesday morning (depending on whether the schedule ends on Sunday night or Monday morning). The major holidays are usually alternated, with one parent having each holiday in odd years, and the other in even years. But a difficult issue can be defining what each major holiday includes. For example, does Christmas include only Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, or does it include the entire Christmas Break? I find that the fairest way to divide Christmas is by defining the first half as extending from 6 pm the day school recesses for the holidays until Christmas Eve at 8 pm, the second half as extending from Christmas Eve at 8 pm until New Year's Eve at 10:00 am, and then New Years is defined as extending from 10:00 am on New Year's Eve until school resumes after the holiday recess. This schedule allows each parent to receive roughly the same number of overnights each year.

There are many other issues involving visitation which are unique to each case. For example, what if one parent is religious and the other is not? What if one parent is Jewish and the other Christian? What if both parents want to spend time on Thanksgiving with their children or if one has to travel? All of these issues should be dealt with in detail in any custody agreement that is reached. I find that defining visitation as carefully as possible avoids conflicts in the future. It also sends a positive message to the children that their parents care deeply about them, and allows the parents to answer any questions the children have about when they are going to see the other parent, and with whom they will be spending each holiday. If the case goes to court, a judge will do his or her best to impose what the judge feels is the most appropriate schedule in your case, but it may not be the schedule that best fits your circumstances. For that reason, adopting a comprehensive schedule in a separation agreement should be the objective of every parent.