In general, child custody includes the legal rights and responsibilities that parents have over the care, control, and upbringing of their child or children. There are different ways parents can split custody rights.
Child visitation includes the legal rights afforded to a non-custodial parent. If one parent does not obtain physical custody over their child, then they will typically be granted visitation rights.
These issues typically arise in cases where married parties have legally separated, are divorcing, or have divorced. Since the parties will reside separately, arrangements must be made so they can have time with their child or children. In most cases, either the parties will agree to their own visitation schedules or the court will order a boilerplate schedule, which is the same in every case.
What is Interference with Child Visitation Rights?
As noted above, child visitation rights are rights that are available for parents who do not reside with their children. These rights permit the parent to visit their children on a regular basis.
The terms of the child visitation rights will be provided in a formal agreement which is called a visitation schedule. In addition to a detailed schedule, an agreement or court order will also include:
- The child’s primary residence;
- Permitted activities; and
- Instructions regarding future modifications of the agreement.
There are two general categories of visitation, unsupervised and supervised. Unsupervised visitation is more common. It allows the parent to spend time with their child without the supervision of a neutral third party.
Supervised visitation, on the other hand, is less common and requires a neutral third party to be present during any visitations. This type of visitation is court-ordered, and, therefore, the court will typically create the visitation schedule and appoint the individual who will supervise the visit.
In some cases, the parents may not agree on the frequency, duration, or type of visitation. In those cases, a court may be required to step in and handle the situation.
If the parents are granted joint custody or the child or children, one parent will typically be designated the primary custodial parent.
The custodial parent is the parent with whom the child resides and who tends to the child’s daily needs. If this arrangement is ordered, there will be a visitation agreement that the parents adhere to which allows them both to have time with the child.
Both parents are legally obligated to abide by the visitation schedule ordered by the court. However, in some instances, one parent may create an obstacle for the visitation time with the child which was ordered by the court. This may be considered either direct interference or indirect interference.
Direct interference occurs when one parent physically prohibits a child from seeing the other parent by means such as moving to another state or taking the child without permission and refusing to return them, in violation of the court order.
In addition, a parent may cancel visitation rights or fail to drop off the child and the court ordered time. Direct interference may also include speaking negatively of the other parent in front of the child in order to discourage visitation.
Indirect interference may include disrupting communications between the child and the other parent. This may include, for example, blocking phone calls or preventing the other parent from attending the child’s school activities. The majority of states do note permit parents to refuse visitation rights if they are behind on their child support payments.
How do Courts Determine a Child’s Visitation Order?
In order to determine a child’s visitation order, the court will use the child’s best interests standard. In some cases of separation or divorce, a parent may become hostile to the other parent and fail to acknowledge the child’s interests.
Because of these potential issues, the court will refocus the parent’s attention to their child’s well being. The factors a court will consider may vary by state but generally include:
- The parent’s emotional ties to the child;
- The financial contribution of both parents to the child;
- The ability of the parent to provide a safe and nurturing environment for their child; and
- Courts do their best not to disrupt the child’s education and social development.
How to Establish a Child Visitation Order?
In order to establish a child visitation order, an individual may be required to take the following steps:
- If there is already a family law case open with the court system, the parent whom the child does not live with can file for a visitation order under that case;
- If both parents can agree to the times of the visitation, the schedule can be approved by the court;
- If no family law case exists, then the parent who desires visitation can initiate the process through the court; and
- A father requesting visitation will be required to prove their paternity in order to be granted visitation rights.
What are the Consequences for Interference with Child Visitation Rights?
Although states may differ in their handling of violations of child visitation rights, there are some general consequences which may result from a parent violating a child visitation order, including the court:
- Ordering make-up parenting time;
- Ordering the interfering parent to pay for counseling for the child or either of the parents;
- Ordering the parent to pay any cost or fees associated with the interference the visitation rights;
- Changing the location for the pickup and drop off of the child;
- Ordering the interfering parent to complete community service and;
- Ordering the arrest and imprisonment of the parent who is interfering.
There may be serious consequences for violations which amount to criminal actions. Because of this, it is very important to follow through with the visitation schedule which is ordered by the court.
There may, however, be cases where a child or a parent is placed in physical danger if they comply with the visitation order. In these cases, it is necessary to inform the court. The court will then take proper measures to ensure the safety of all parties involved.
What are the Parental Duties During Child’s Visitation?
A custodial parent has a duty to encourage and ensure that their child has sufficient parenting time with their other parent. The custodial parent should not interfere with the court-ordered visitation.
The parents also have the responsibility of picking up and dropping off the child and the designated location for their visits. The parents are required to comply with the court order and permit visitations without creating issues.
Should I Hire a Lawyer if I’m Facing Child Visitation Rights Issues?
If you are facing any child visitation rights issues, it is important to have the assistance of a child visitation lawyer. Going through a legal separation or divorce can be extremely stressful for all parties. If the parties cannot agree on child visitation schedules and rights, the court will step in.
It is important to seek the assistance of an attorney as early in the process as possible. Your attorney can review your situation, assist you in creating and schedule, and help discuss the issues with the other parent in a reasonable manner.
If your child’s other parent is not cooperating with the court-ordered visitation, an attorney can help. Not cooperating with these orders can have serious consequences and may lead to criminal charges for the party who is interfering. If you are a parent being accused of violating a visitation order, it is important to have an attorney on your side to ensure your rights are protected.