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Interference with Child Visitation Rights

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What Are Child Visitation Rights?

Child visitation rights are awarded to the non-custodial parent in a divorce or legal separation setting. Usually, the custodial parent cares for the child for the majority of the time, with the non-custodial parent having cyclical visitation periods (for example, on weekends). 

The purpose of visitation rights is to allow the non-custodial parent and the child a chance to continue interacting with one another. Unless the situation involves abuse or a threat of harm to the child, the court will normally encourage the individual parents to maintain peaceful contact with child and with one another. 

Is Interference with Visitation Rights Illegal?

Interfering with a court-issued visitation order is illegal and can lead to legal consequences, or even a loss of rights with regards to the child. A custodial parent might attempt to deny the non-custodial parent visitation rights, as a means of “punishing” the ex-partner or as a means of obtaining more child support. Such actions are illegal and can negatively affect the person’s custody rights.

Visitation orders are binding legal documents if they were issued by a judge. The visitation order basically grants the non-custodial rights to spend with the child, and these rights cannot be denied them. Thus, disobeying a visitation order or attempting to interfere with visitation rights can lead to contempt charges. These may be punishable by a legal fine, although serious incidents can lead to criminal penalties.  

Does Interference with Visitation Rights Affect the Visitation Order?

In some instances, interference with visitation rights can lead to the court modifying the custody or visitation order. For example, the judge might modify the visitation order to include:

  • An increase in visitation rights for the non-custodial parent
  • Scheduled make-up visits for any missed appointments
  • Changes with regards to the terms of visitation, such as changing the visitation to a location besides the custodial parent’s home

Finally, repeat instances or serious instances of interference can even result in the custodial parent losing custody of the child. The child custody order would be modified and custody would then be shifted to the other parent. 

Can a Court “Interfere” with Visitation Rights?

In some cases the court may intervene and deny the non-custodial parent visitation rights. For example, if the visiting parent has abused or neglected the child during visitation, the court might step in and enforce a denial of visitation rights

This is not so much an “interference with visitation rights,” but rather more like an intervention in order to prevent the child from being harm. In other words, courts have the authority to modify a visitation order or to deny visitation rights, if they decide that it is in accordance with the child’s best interest standard.

In many cases the court may recognize that an abusive situation exists, and will voluntary intervene in the situation. It is also common for the custodial parent to request the court to intervene and deny the abusive party visitation rights. This is allowed and in fact may sometimes be necessary in order to protect the child’s safety and well being.  However, courts will not interfere with visitation rights without a good reason for doing so.

Do I Need a Lawyer for Disputes Involving Interference with Visitation Rights?

Visitation rights are generally secured through a court-ordered visitation order. Interference with visitation rights is prohibited and can lead to severe legal consequences. If you are involved in a dispute over visitation rights, a family lawyer can help defend your interests in court.  Working with a lawyer may be necessary, as each state has different laws covering child visitation rights.

Photo of page author Ken LaMance

, LegalMatch Law Library Managing Editor and Attorney at Law

Last Modified: 04-28-2015 10:03 AM PDT

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