How to Build a Child Visitation Plan for an LGBTQ+ Family

Once you and your partner have decided to pursue a divorce, your first thought is probably not about you, your finances, or what others will think: it’s about your child. In an amicable split, the first thing most couples will do is discuss how to continue to be good parents and provide your mutual child with the same quality of life and support as before. This will require a parenting plan and it’s one of the most important steps in a divorce. In an LGBTQ+ family, creating a child visitation plan is especially vital because of the potential for discrimination and unique other challenges you may face. In New Mexico, it is unlikely that sexual orientation will have an effect on whether one parent is considered a parent if the child, or children, were born during your marriage. If not, there may be some roadblocks to discuss with an attorney.

Before Planning, Establish Your Legal Parent Status

While legal parentage is a straightforward process for heterosexual couples, it’s more complex for LGBTQ couples. Establishing LGBT child custody can take additional time and paperwork to ensure that you are legally considered a parent to your child, but it is absolutely essential that you and your co-parent both have it before seeking divorce and creating a parenting and visitation plan. Without it you could see legal trouble down the road if you’re in an emergency or someone discriminates against you and challenges your parental status.

What is a Child Visitation Plan?

Once you are legally established parents to your child, you should put together a child visitation plan. This is one aspect of what’s called a Parenting Plan and establishes a few of the logistical points of how custody is to be shared. If you and your co-parent have 50/50 shared custody over your child, then the visitation plan will detail which days or weeks you will have your child, and vice versa. The same principle applies to any other custody split, including 60/40, 80/20, etc. If you are able to fashion a plan with your ex, you should do so as it will be extremely useful for avoiding unnecessary litigation.

Consider Your Child’s Current Life

In drafting your child visitation plan, first list everything currently going on in their life. These are called “status quo” items. For example, consider which school they’re currently attending, if they’ve joined any extracurricular activities or groups, which doctors they see, etc. With this information, you can determine when it’s best for your child to visit with one parent over the other, if it’s viable to maintain your current custody split if one of you is moving farther away, and how their life may be affected by the plan you create. Every step of the way, you should always consider if what you’re planning is in your child’s best interest, even if it’s not convenient or easy to achieve.

Think About Where Your Child Should Live

Once you’ve considered your child’s current life and obligations, it’s time to consider where their primary home will be. With any custody split outside of one person being the primary parent, you need to decide how often your child will live with you and when they’ll go to stay with your ex. For example, if you have shared custody 60/40, your child could live with you four days a week and three with their other parent, or with you for 2-3 weeks and the rest of the month at your ex’s.

How Would You Handle Summer & the Holidays?

There are multiple times during the year where your child won’t be going to school, and that additional free-time means more time with you and your co-parent. These circumstances warrant special consideration, so you’ll want to highlight this in creating your child visitation plan. If one parent’s family prefers a certain holiday, consider your child spending that time with them, giving you time with your child over other holidays. On school breaks, you can maintain the same visitation schedule, or change it to reflect one parent’s summer work hours, summer camps, or other activities.

Finally, Include Exceptions to the Plan

One thing many parents forget to include is exceptions should an emergency or schedule change arise for one parent. While no one can ever predict the future, it’s safest to create a plan should one parent suddenly be unable to care for the child one weekend, or if someone has a one-off event or vacation they would like to include the child in. This way, once you get to these moments, you and your ex will already know what to do.

However, you decide to share your children, know your LGBT parenting rights and create your child visitation plan the right way with a supportive LGBT family law attorney by your side. At the Law Office of Dorene A. Kuffer, our team is committed to protecting the right of LGBTQIA+ couples and helping them find a child custody plan that works for them. Contact us and we’ll work with you through the legal process so you and your family can legally move on with your new life.