Child Visitation Agreements

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What are Child Visitation Agreements?

Child visitation agreements may be formed between two parties to a divorce who are seeking to establish visitation schedules with their children.  They basically outline the child visitation rights of each parent and determine who is assigned physical custody of the children during specified time periods. 

Child visitation agreements may be issued by a judge, but sometimes they are formed between the parents without the court’s intervention.

Who is Allowed to Create a Child Visitation Agreement?

In many jurisdictions, a parent who is awarded sole custody of a child is also allowed to set the visitation schedule.  The custodial parent creates a proposed visitation agreement and then submits it to the judge for approval.  If it is certified by the court, the visitation agreement is known as a visitation order, and is enforceable by law.

In some instances, both parents may choose to form the visitation agreement privately without the court’s approval.  Such agreements are not issued by the court, but are often enforceable under contract law.  However, in the majority of custody cases, the parents are unable to reach a mutual agreement and must rely on a judge who will determine visitation rights. 

The parents can also submit a visitation or parenting agreement to a judge for approval before a custody hearing.  In this case the agreement is called a “stipulated” agreement, meaning that it has been agreed upon in advance.  Judges can usually approve stipulated visitation agreements without a court hearing. 

What is Contained in a Visitation Agreement?

Depending on the circumstances, a visitation agreement may contain various instructions regarding each parent’s visitation rights.  Some of the provisions commonly included in visitation agreements include:

Visitation is usually unsupervised but if there are safety concerns for the child, the visitation agreement may require supervised visits.  Some visitation agreements may also allow for “virtual visitation” through online video services. 

What Happens if Child Visitation Agreements are Violated?

Violations of court-ordered child visitation agreements can often result in legal consequences.  These can include criminal penalties such as fines or possible jail time.  Violations may also lead to civil penalties such as a contempt order.  Failing to obey a custody or visitation order can even lead to a loss of various rights, such as driving privileges.

The most important provisions in a child visitation agreement are those that deal with visitation dates and hours.  For example, if a parent retains physical custody of the child beyond the agreed-upon days or hours, it could lead to very serious legal consequences, (such as kidnapping charges).  The custodial parent may even be able to sue for civil losses such as emotional damages. 

Do I Need a Lawyer for Drafting Child Visitation Agreements?

Child visitations are an important part of any custody arrangement.  If you are facing issues regarding visitation, you may wish to have a lawyer draft a child visitation agreement for you.  Your attorney can assist you in creating and reviewing the agreement, and they can help you file it with the court for approval.  Also, in the event of any violations, your lawyer can assist you in filing a complaint or legal claim.  

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Last Modified: 07-14-2011 02:20 PM PDT

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