Non-Custodial Parent Rights

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 What is the Non-Custodial Parent?

The child does not live with the non-custodial parent except during the time that the non-custodial parent has court-ordered visitation. The custodial parent is the individual that has primary physical custody of the child.

The courts usually encourage frequent and regular visitation when the parents reside in the same locality and when it does not interfere with a child’s school schedule. If the parents live far from one another, liberal visitation is typically provided for school breaks and summer vacations.

What are the Visitation Rights of a Non-Custodial Parent?

Visitation rights may be determined by the agreement of the parents or by court order if the parents cannot agree. Courts will usually consider the wishes of the child if age-appropriate when reviewing custody and visitation issues. Visitation rights are crucial, not only to the parent but to the children as well. The length and type of visitation may be determined according to the age of the child.

To prevent future conflicts, a parenting plan is recommended to cover how the visitation will be carried out. The parents can draft a specific agreement that can include:

  • Specific weekends;
  • Overnight visits;
  • Pick up and drop off times and locations;
  • How the exchange will be made; and
  • A schedule for birthdays, holidays, and special occasions.

Supervised visitation can be ordered in situations where the children’s safety and well-being are at risk. For instance, these visits would require supervision by another adult or a professional agency. In cases in which contact with a parent would be physically or emotionally harmful to the children, the court may order that the parent be allowed no visitation with the children at all to prevent any danger or harm. If warranted, the court can appoint an attorney to represent the child. This type of attorney is referred to as a Guardian Ad Litem.

Who Determines the Visitation Terms?

Many states have adopted recent laws which require the parents to draft a parenting agreement. This provides the flexibility for the parents to cooperate on a reasonable visitation plan at their discretion. The general rule is that this plan is in the best interest of the children.

Furthermore, negotiating child visitation rights can be done independently or with the help of a neutral third-party mediator. A mediator can facilitate discussion of each parent’s needs with the primary goal of reaching a mutually acceptable agreement without having to go to trial.

But, if an agreement cannot be reached by the parents, the court may intervene. When the court determines child visitation rights, it will create a schedule that both parents and the child must abide by.

What Does a Visitation Schedule Consist Of?

Child visitation can have different types of forms or schedules. The term “reasonable visitation” gives the parents the authority to specify dates and times for the visitation. Having a “scheduled visitation” agreement outlines a specific and fixed schedule of when the visitation will take place. Whether you are the custodial or non-custodial parent, a basic visitation schedule may consist of the following:

  • Alternate weekend visitation with the non-custodial parent, including any three-day holidays;
  • Mid-week visitation with the non-custodial parent;
  • Sharing of the child during periods of school breaks; winter, spring, and summer;
  • New Year’s Eve, Easter, Thanksgiving, and Christmas are the types of holidays spent with one parent one year, and the other parent the following year;
  • Mother’s Day is spent with the mother, and Father’s Day with the father;
  • Parents alternate the children’s birthdays;
  • Telephone and email contact by the parent who does not have physical custody;
  • Exchange of a few days of visitation on occasion as schedules permit that is agreed upon by both parents without the need for a modification of the court order; and
  • Emergencies may require the other parent to take temporary physical custody of the child.

When formulating a parenting plan and a visitation schedule, you should define the schedule according to age and gender. It is important to ensure that the child visitation schedule is flexible, workable, and feasible. As children age, their interests change, and they may want to spend more time with their friends or participate in after-school activities.

As mentioned earlier, the pivotal point in all determinations for cases is considering the child’s best interest. It is critical for each parent to show respect for each other and cooperate as adults in front of their children. Cooperation and a positive attitude will be beneficial in making your children feel less stressed about their changing situation.

What Happens if One of the Parents Attempts to Interfere with Visitation?

Interference by one parent in the relationship of a child with the other parent is never considered to be in the child’s best interest. Most courts and experts agree that a child must have a strong relationship with both parents. The courts will usually grant custody to the parent who is most likely to foster a relationship between the child and the other parent. Courts in some jurisdictions have held that interference with the non-custodial parent’s right could become grounds for a change of custody.

The most common form of interference happens when the custodial parent consistently refuses to turn children over to the non-custodial parent for court-ordered visitation. The child’s best interests are injured as they are deprived of a relationship with the non-custodial parent. Moreover, keep in mind that supervised visitation rights are not guaranteed. Visitation can be suspended, denied, or restricted if the court discovers that it would be contrary to the child’s best interest. Factors can include parental unfitness such as child abuse, neglect or abandonment, or severe mental illness.

Lastly, if there is violence or physical child endangerment, a parent may be denied visitation. For instance, if the parent has abused the child or has threatened physical violence to the child or the custodial parent, this is immediately considered in court. Furthermore, if there is emotional harm and there is proof of potential emotional harm to the child, a parent’s rights may be limited or denied altogether. Such evidence may include stuttering, bed-wetting, unusual behavior, or poor school performance.

What is the Time and Duration of Supervised Visits?

The court order will usually specify the time and duration of the supervised visits. It may also specify who the supervised visitation provider is to be and where the visits have to take place. Upon arrival, the non-custodial parent is placed in a room with a counselor or another trained person for the supervised visit. The parent is then allowed to visit, play, and socialize with the child during the allotted time. The counselor will listen and watch for any behavior that may cause issues or concerns.

If a problem arises, the visit will come to an end. Some programs even charge a fee for the exchange. This fee can be set by the agency that provides the supervised visitation service. Keep in mind that the visitation rights of the non-custodial parent will only be denied if there is substantial evidence that such visitation will be harmful to the child or where the non-custodial parent has forfeited their right to visitation.

When Do I Need to Contact a Lawyer?

If you are a non-custodial parent and you are worried about your rights being infringed upon by the custodial parent or any other party. It may be useful to seek out a local child custody attorney to assist you with a proceeding with the court.

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