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The difference between fixed and reasonable visitation

When a Massachusetts court orders visitation, it may order reasonable or fixed visitation. It is important for parents to understand the differences between these two types of visitation and what their responsibilities will be in each situation. A failure to comply with the visitation order can result in contempt charges, possible loss of custody and other consequences.

A reasonable visitation schedule is assigned when the judge believes that the two parents will be able to work together to figure out the details on their own. The judge thus orders that the parents decide on a visitation schedule that is reasonable and works for them. A parent is likely to be in violation of this order only if they continually and purposefully avoid setting up visitation or making the child available at an agreed-upon time.

Fixed visitation is the opposite of reasonable visitation. The judge will order this if it is believed that the parents are unable to work together or unlikely to come to a reasonable agreement on their own. The judge will determine times, and sometimes locations, where the visitation is to occur. These times are exact and must be adhered to unless there is an emergency situation of some kind. Any deviation in a fixed visitation schedule can be considered a violation of the court order. This means that the custodial parent must make the child available at the specified time.

There are a variety of issues that can occur on either a reasonable or a fixed visitation schedule. If a custodial parent is continually not making an effort to set up visitation, then the non-custodial parent should take action to have the visitation schedule changed to fixed visitation. A parent on a fixed visitation schedule who is unable to meet its requirements of that schedule may petition the judge to modify the agreement.

Source: FindLaw, "Parental Visitation Rights FAQ", accessed on Jan. 14, 2015

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