How to legally establish a visitation schedule in New York.

Understanding Visitation Rights in New York

Visitation rights, referred to as parenting time or visitation schedule, dictate when and how a non-custodial parent may spend time with their child. In New York, establishing a legally binding visitation schedule is critical to ensure that both parents maintain a relationship with their child post-divorce or separation.

Initiating the Process

The process typically begins with filing a petition in the Family Court in the county where the child resides. The parent seeking visitation rights must submit a petition for an order of visitation, clearly outlining their desired schedule.

Developing a Visitation Schedule

A judge will consider several factors when establishing a visitation schedule, such as the best interests of the child, the child's schedule, and the location of each parent's residence. It's often encouraged for parents to agree on a schedule outside of court through negotiation or mediation. If an agreement is reached, it can be submitted to the court for approval.

Court Intervention and Considerations

If parents cannot agree, the court will intervene and establish a schedule. Courts have historically favored active involvement from both parents. One landmark case that reinforces this principle is Troxel v. Granville, where the Supreme Court recognized the importance of parental rights while simultaneously considering the child's best interests.

Enforcement and Modification of Visitation

A legally established visitation schedule is enforceable by law. Should circumstances change significantly, either parent may petition the court for modification of the visitation order. The same standards apply—any changes must serve the child's best interests.


Establishing a legal visitation schedule in New York requires navigating complex family laws while focusing on what is best for the child. Parents are encouraged to work collaboratively but can rely on the court to establish fair visitation rights when necessary.