Frequently, judges will use their own preferred visitation schedule, often referred to as a standard visitation schedule. Most visitation schedules are very similar throughout Alabama, but there may be differences depending on the county in which your divorce is filed. Some judges will allow cooperating parties to create their own unique visitation schedule, but others prefer to defer to the standard visitation schedule.
In Mobile County, Alabama, the judges prefer a visitation schedule similar to the language found below:
The non-custodial parent is allowed liberal visitation with the children at any and all reasonable times as are mutually agreeable to the parties including the following specific times:
Weekend: The non-custodial parent is allowed weekend visitation on alternate weekends from Friday at 6:00 p.m. until Sunday at 6:00 p.m., beginning on the Friday after the Agreement is signed.
Thanksgiving: The non-custodial parent shall have alternate Thanksgivings with the minor children in odd-numbered years. The custodial parent shall have alternate Thanksgivings with the minor children in even-number years. The time shall be from 3:00 p.m. on Wednesday until the following Sunday at 6:00 p.m.
Spring Break: The non-custodial parent shall have Spring Break in even-numbered years and the custodial parent shall have spring break in odd numbered years. The time shall be from Friday immediately before the spring break week begins at 6:00 p.m. until the Sunday after spring break at 6:00 p.m.
Summer: The non-custodial parent shall be entitled to four weeks of visitation during the summer with the specific schedule to be mutually agreed upon by the parties. If the parties are not able to reach a mutual agreement, the non-custodial parent shall have summer visitation during the month of July beginning at 6:00 p.m. on the first day of July and ending at 6:00 p.m. on the last day of July of each year.
Christmas: The custodial party shall keep the children in his or her care during the week before Christmas until 3:00 p.m. on Christmas Day. Thereafter, the non-custodial party shall have visitation for one week at Christmas from December 25th at 3:00 p.m. until January 2nd at 3:00 p.m.
Other: In addition, the children shall be with the mother on Mother's Day weekend and with the father for Father's Day weekend.
This schedule is used in the majority of divorces in Alabama, with some variations occurring depending on the specific county. Note that when holidays interfere with the basic structure of alternating weekends, the holiday schedule will override the schedule of alternating weekends and the basic schedule will continue as normal after the holiday. Neither party is entitled to “make up” a weekend lost due to the holiday schedule.
Also note that this schedule is intended as a minimum visitation schedule, ensuring a minimum amount of time the child(ren) will spend with the non-custodial parent. Parents are encouraged to supplement the schedule as they see fit, allowing the child to spend more time with the non-custodial parent whenever it is mutually agreeable and convenient to both parties.
Additional visits need not be authorized by the Court or included in the formal visitation schedule, but can be decided by the parties through mutual agreement as desired. Please remember that in most cases, it is in the best interests of the children to maintain a close relationship with both parents and spend as much time with the non-custodial parent as possible.
Parents who are cooperating especially well may desire to create their own visitation schedule which fits the unique needs of their family. In many cases, the Court in Mobile County, Alabama will not incorporate the parties’ own schedule into the divorce decree, but the parties are nevertheless free to adhere to their own informal agreement as long as it works for them and they are both agreeable.
In other words, you are not required to follow the Court’s preferred schedule as long as you can make your own schedule work. However, if conflict arises and the parties are not able to agree on an informal schedule, the Court will defer to and enforce the standard visitation schedule included in the divorce decree.