Child Visitation

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 What Are Child Visitation Rights?

Under child visitation laws, child visitation rights are provided to the non-custodial parent in a divorce and child custody case. The terms of the visitation are outlined in the child visitation agreement, also called the child visitation schedule.

How Do I Get Child Custody and Visitation Rights?

During a divorce or separation case, couples who have children will have several important divisions to make, including:

  • Who will have custody of the children;
  • What types of custody rights each parent will retain; and
  • Defending on the circumstances of the case, the arrangements regarding visitation for the children.

In general, child custody is the legal rights and responsibilities that a parent has over the care, control, and upbringing of the child. Child visitation, on the other hand, are the legal rights that are afforded to the non-custodial parent.

In other words, if the parent does not obtain any type of physical custody over the child, they will typically be granted visitation rights.

1) What Do Courts Consider When Setting Child Visitation Rights?

When setting child visitation rights, the court will take the child’s best interests into consideration and will then consider other factors such as:

  • The age and the overall well-being of the child;
  • The location of each parent;
  • The current employment as well as the employment history of both of the parents;
  • If the child is old enough, the court may ask for their living preference; and
  • Each parent’s daily work and life schedules.

In general, a court prefers that both parents have an active role in their child’s life. If, however, there are past issues of abuse or domestic violence, the court will most certainly take these into consideration and may require supervised visitation, and in rare cases, no visitation.

2) What Are Child Visitation Agreements and What Do They Contain?

A child visitation agreement between parents may be formed with the goal of creating a visitation schedule for the child. The arrangement will outline the visitation rights, duties, and responsibilities of each parent.

It is best when the parents are able to reach an agreement together. However, if they cannot, the court will set the visitation schedule.

Typical child visitation agreements include:

It is best if the parents can reach an agreement together, but if not, the court will intervene. A typical agreement may include:

  • The child’s main residence;
  • A detailed visitation schedule;
  • Activities;
  • Geographic restrictions; and
  • Modification instructions.

3) Who Is Allowed to Create a Child Visitation Agreement?

State laws vary regarding who is allowed to create a child visitation agreement. It is not uncommon for the parent who has sole custody to create the visitation schedule.

They will then submit the proposed agreement to the court and, if it is approved, it will become a court order. Because the circumstances between the parties may change, it is important to submit the agreement to the court because it makes it legally enforceable in case there are any future issues.

4) Who Determines Child Visitation Guidelines?

If both of the parties involved in a case are able to come to an agreement on child visitation and submit it to the court, it can be a fairly painless process. However, because tensions may be high in custody cases, some child visitation guidelines may have to be left to the court.

5) What Are the Types of Child Visitation Arrangements?

Typically, a child visitation agreement can be broken down into one of two types, including:

  • Unsupervised visitation: The most common visitation, that allows the non-custodial parent spend their scheduled time with the child without being supervised by a neutral third party; and
  • Supervised visitation: The court may order supervised visitation guidelines for a variety of reasons including:
    reintroduction of parent and child;
    • parenting concerns or mental illness;
    • a history of abuse;
    • substance abuse or neglect; and
    • if there is a threat of kidnapping.

In supervised visitation cases, the court will outline the time and duration of visits. In addition, the court will designate the third party who will perform the supervision.

6) How Do I Create a Valid Visitation Agreement?

If an individual wants to create a visitation agreement with their ex-spouse, they can begin by writing down all of the important issues pertaining to the rearing of the child, ensuring that they are placing the child’s best interests first. It is also important to include the following issues:

  • Any court orders or documents, such as:
    • divorce;
    • paternity; and
    • child custody award;
  • Documents concerning the child, such as:
    • letters;
    • evaluations; or
    • reports; and
  • The child’s daily and school schedules.

7) Can Visitation Schedules Be Modified?

It is common for visitation schedules to be modified. Life circumstances may change, jobs may change, and individuals may move their children and become more active.

If an individual needs to modify a visitation schedule, they can try and work out an agreement with the other party and submit it to the court. Even if a final court order for child custody or visitation already exists, it may still be possible to gain custody of a child by submitting a request for modification to the court.

A new or modified custody order is typically issued in a case where one or both of the parties experiences a major life change. A major life change is a change that would likely have a serious impact on the child and how they are raised.

Major life changes that may be sufficient to modify an existing custody order include:

  • When a parent’s behavior puts the child’s life at risk, such as abusing the child or selling drugs;
  • If one of the parents becomes incapacitated, is deceased, or some other issue that results in the parent no longer being able to care for the child;
  • The parent:
    • remarries;
    • relocates; or
    • loses their job; or
  • They complete a court-ordered program that reinstates certain parental rights.

If a parent seeks to modify an existing child custody or visitation order, they have to file a request for modification with their local family court. The court will then review the request, determine whether to make changes, and, if so, issue a new or modified order based on those changes.

8) Are All Child Visitation Schedules Enforceable?

Visitation schedules are only enforceable if they have been approved by the court or if the parties have a written legal contract. Even if an individual already has an agreement they are following, they should still have the agreement approved and ordered by the court.

9) What if a Child Visitation Schedule Has Been Violated?

If one of the parties violates the visitation schedule, there may be serious consequences, especially if the violation continues. The violating parent may:

  • Lose visitation rights;
  • Be held in contempt of court; or
  • Even face criminal charges.

A visitation schedule violation typically occurs when a parent keeps the child longer than the scheduled time or if the parent denies the other parent their right to visitation. If an individual has an issue with a visitation schedule, they should contact their attorney immediately.

10) Do I Need a Lawyer for Help with a Child Visitation Schedule?

If you are involved in a divorce or child custody case and need assistance drafting a visitation agreement, a child visitation lawyer can be a great resource. Your lawyer can help you draft the agreement and file it with the court.

Child custody cases can be highly contentious. Having your lawyer work out the details can ensure your child’s best interests are put first and your rights are protected.

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