A Better Way to Schedule Weekend Visitation

Other than a provable denial of the contempt, the single best defense to a rule to show cause is that the underlying order is vague and ambiguous. It must tell the parties in plain and unambiguous language what they must or must not do

What does this have to do with weekend visitation? Visitation schedules are frequently vague and ambiguous. Schedules requiring alternating weekends rarely state the starting date of the first weekend or what happens after a disruption of the weekend schedule. If one does not know the starting date, one cannot calculate future weekend visitation.

Consider these scenarios.

  • The father has the last half of the Christmas holidays, ending on Sunday, January 1. Which parent has the weekend of January 6-8?
  • The mother has the weekend of November 18-20, 2022. She also has Thanksgiving Holidays in even-numbered years. Thanksgiving falls on November 24. Whose weekend is December 1-3, 2022?
  • The mother’s alternating weekends in May include May 5-7 and May 19-21, 2023. She also gets the Mother’s Day weekend. Did anyone intend for the mother to have three consecutive weekends?
  • A parent wants to plan for a specific weekend six months or a year in the future. If the weekend does not fall on a specified and allocated holiday, can the parent plan the weekend with any degree of certainty?

These puzzles, conundrums, and injustices are easily remedied by A simple weekend schedule easily resolves these puzzles conundrums. This schedule is the Judge Morehead schedule, as Judge A. E. Morehead III first developed the concept. He was probably the first South Carolina lawyer or judge to recognize the problem; he was certainly the first to do anything about it.

Regardless of which parent is the primary custodian, the father receives the first, third, and fifth weekends of each month. One determines the weekend by the date on which Sunday falls. If Sunday falls on the first through the seventh, it is the first weekend; the eighth through the fourteenth, the second weekend, the fifteenth through the twenty-first, the third weekend, the twenty-second through the twenty-eighth the fourth weekend, and the twenty-ninth through the thirty-first, the fifth weekend.

Regardless of which parent is the primary custodian, the mother receives the second and fourth weekends of each month. If one wishes to fine-tune this, the fifth weekend can be apportioned equally, giving one parent the fifth weekend in the months of January through June and the other parent the fifth weekend in the months of July through December or one parent the fifth weekends in the first and third quarters and the other parent the second and fourth quarters.

Why is Sunday the determinative day? Why does the mother get the second weekend while the father gets the third weekend? Mother’s Day and Father’s Day, those Hallmark Card holidays treated by family court practitioners as more sacred than Christmas Day or Independence Day, fall on Sunday—Mother’s Day the second weekend in May, and Father’s Day the third weekend in June.

I participated in one appellate case involving contempt that would never have occurred had the Judge Morehead Schedule been used in the thirty-three-page Marital Settlement Agreement. I lost the appeal but that did not change my assessment in any way.

When I propose this schedule, I meet with incredible resistance from lawyers and mediators who want cookie-cutter forms without considering the benefits and simplicity of this schedule. The judges and former judges with whom I have discussed this view it favorably. I hope you will consider it when negotiating custody schedules