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Denial of Visitation Rights

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What Is a Denial of Visitation Rights?

A court can deny or restrict visitation if the court believes that the child might be in danger due to the visitation. The court usually denies or restricts visitation if for example, the non-custodial parent has molested the child, is likely to kidnap the child, or is likely to use illegal drugs or excessive amounts of alcohol while caring for the child.

There are also times when a parent denies the other parent visitation rights without the court’s permission. Denying visitation to the other parent without a court’s permission is illegal and can lead to legal repercussions.

People also read: Child Custody and Child Visitation Rights

What Are Common Reasons a Parent Is Denied Visitation?

When two parents are divorced or separated, the custodial parent sometimes prevents the non-custodial parent from exercising his or her child visitation rights. If you are a non-custodial parent that has been denied visitation rights that you previously had, there are some common reasons why you were denied visitation rights:

  • Non-custodial parent not paying child support
  • Disapproval of other parent’s relationships, such as a new mate
  • Drug or alcohol abuse
  • Child abuse incarceration
  • Fear of Abduction
  • Religious differences
  • Child’s wishes

If there is a custody order in force, denying visitation is illegal and can have serious legal repercussions for the parent who denies visitation.

In some jurisdictions, a custodial parent may deny visitation if visitation with the non-custodial parent would risk exposing the child to immediate bodily injury or emotional harm. However, the custodial parent must also take specific steps before denying visitation, such as notifying the appropriate authorities. This is only permitted in exceptional circumstances.

Can I Ask the Court To Deny Visitation?

Yes and this is the legally preferred method for restricting visitation, even if the courts may not grant such a request. Remember that family courts are bound to do what they believe are in the child’s best interest. As such, judges will only permit the restriction or denial of visitation rights for limited circumstances. However, some of these circumstances may create a suspension of visitation rather than permanent custody change:

  • Violence or physical harm
  • Child Abduction
  • Emotional abuse of the child or non-custodial parent
  • Substance abuse, especially with illegal substances
  • Parental incarceration, although this may result in suspension rather than custody change
  • Extreme sexual behavior which may have a harmful effect on the child

Can You Lose Custody If You Deny Visitation Rights?

A parent can lose custody of their child by denying the other parent their visitation rights if there isn’t a court order denying visitation. In any situation, if a custodial parent does not want their children to be in contact with the other parent, they would need to return to court and get the original custody order changed to deny the other parent visitation rights. The entire process must be run through the court system and cannot be done at the parent’s own will or decision. 

Would A Court Punish The Custodial Parent For Denying Visitation?

This question depends on individual judges, although punishments for breaching visitation agreements are not uncommon. Punishments are based on the frequency and length of denial. Such punishments may include:

  • Make-up visits
  • Suspension of child support
  • Change of custody

Is There Ever A Time When It Is Legal To Deny Visitation?

It is almost never legal to deny visitation without a court order. If the non-custodial parent is late on child support, the visitations must continue anyway. Consult the court if child support is a problem.
If the non-custodial parent is abusive or has very obvious problems, such as drinking or using drugs, then it is best for the custodial parent to call the police to handle it. In essence, if there is a problem with one parent, the other parent should always pursue the proper legal course of action rather than take the law into his or her own hands.

How Will the Visitation be Restricted? 

Restricted visitation is only allowed under supervision. Normally your court judgment on visitation specifies the conditions of supervised visitation, and what role the supervisor should have. Unsupervised visitation is usually not allowed until after the batter completes a batter prevention program and doesn’t become violent for some time.

If you believe that denying the non-custodial parent visitation is in the best interest of your child, you would need to review your state's child custody laws to determine whether the denial is legally allowed and what the acceptable reasons to request a modification of your original child custody orders are. Courts require the requesting parent to prove that the non-custodial parent has exhibited behaviors that have harmed the child, such as:

  • Using illegal drugs
  • Drinking excessively
  • Being sexually or physically abusive
  • Neglecting the child
  • Being incapable of taking care of the child

Can Visitation Rights be Suspended?

Visitation could be suspended if there are repeated violations of the visitation conditions, the child is severely distressed because of the visitation, or there are clear indications that the violent parent has threatened to harm or flee with the child. Visitation rights are not guaranteed and can be suspended, denied, or restricted if the court decides that it is for the child’s best interest.

How Do I Enforce My Visitation Rights?

If you are being denied visitation, you have several options. If you are able to contact the custodial parent, you may first want to attempt to contact him or her to find out the reason he or she is preventing visitation. If this does not resolve the issue, you can consider the following:

  • Document the violation: Attempt to make a record of the denial of visitation. For example, if the custody exchange location is a restaurant or shopping location, you can purchase a small item and save the receipt to prove that you were at the exchange location at the correct time.
  • Contact the police: If you have a copy of the court’s order, you can contact the police for assistance and file a police report. You may also schedule a civil standby at the custodial parent’s residence so the police can supervise the exchange.
  • Contact the district attorney: Many district attorney offices have dedicated child abduction units that are tasked with helping parents enforce custody and visitation orders and preventing abduction.
  • File a motion: If the custodial parent is consistently denying visitation, you can file a motion requesting orders from the court. In your motion, depending on the circumstances, you can ask the court to modify the custody order, enforce the custody order, or issue sanctions or other orders to prevent future violations.
  • File for contempt: Contempt is a judicial proceeding brought against a person who violates a court order. In contempt proceedings, the court may issue sanctions or require that the violator serve jail-time.

Do I Need a Lawyer for My Visitation Issue?

If you are seeking to enforce your visitation rights with your children, it may be wise to consult a family lawyer to discuss how to go further. Working with an experienced family lawyer can help you understand your rights and help you deal with the complicated legal system.

Photo of page author Ki Akhbari

, LegalMatch Legal Writer

Last Modified: 09-27-2017 12:48 AM PDT

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