When a child’s parents are divorced, separated, or otherwise not together, the parents will likely seek a custody and visitation schedule, which can be established by a court. A court may also allow the parents to work out their own visitation schedule, which they must still abide by, as visitation has been ordered by the court in this case.
A custody arrangement determines who has primary custody of the child, or whether the parents have joint custody. When one parent is the primary custodian, the other parent, the non-custodial parent, may establish visitation rights. This gives the parent a legal right to see their children, as determined by the schedule which may give days and times for visitation. Or, the court may allow the parents to work out the schedule.
If a legal parent does not have a court-ordered visitation schedule, and the parent who has custody of the child denies visits, the non-custodial parent will need to go to court in order to have one established. If the parent who seeks visitation is not actually the legal parent, they will need to establish parentage before seeking a visitation order.
If the custodial parent denies the non-custodial parent their court-ordered visitations, according to the schedule established, the non-custodial parent may have to resort to legal means to assert their rights. It is not wise for them to try to use other methods to try to see their children, such as taking the children without the custodial parent’s permission. This can lead to charges of parental kidnapping.
If visitation rights are denied, especially if they are denied regularly, the non-custodial parent should do their best to document any occurrences. This includes recording any times they are denied visitation, and any other evidence that can be presented to show denial of visitation rights. This sort of information will be useful if the matter goes to court.
The parent may also want to seek the assistance of a family lawyer. This lawyer can contact the custodial parent or their representative in an effort to resolve the matter without going to court. However, if this is unsuccessful, the only recourse may be to file a petition in court to have the visitation rights enforced. A lawyer can do this for the parent who is seeking visitation. It may also be possible to have the police enforce an agreement, although this will likely not help the relationship between the parents.
A custodial parent who denies the non-custodial parent visitation may be on dangerous ground. A court may review the custody arrangement and take away primary custody from a parent who has refused their child’s other parent the visitation rights they are legally entitled to.
A non-custodial parent may also file a motion to have the visitation schedule amended if they wish to have more or longer visits.
It may also be possible for the parent who is denied visitation rights to sue the other parent. This suit may be based on several grounds:
- Intentional infliction of emotional distress: In this case, the non-custodial parent must show that their distress resulted from the intentional or reckless actions of the custodial parent;
- Intentional interference with visitation rights: When the custodial parent purposefully refuses to observe the visitation agreement; and
- Breach of contract: The parents are both contractually bound by the child visitation agreement, so if it is violated, it may be possible to sue for breach of contract.
In many states in the U.S., approximately 30 states allow for the parental rights of a rapist to be terminated. This means, of course, that in about 20 states, laws do not allow for termination of a rapist’s parental rights.
Furthermore, even in states that do allow for termination of rights, some still require that the rapist be convicted of the crime of rape in order to have their parental rights terminated. Currently, no federal law speaks to this issue, so as of now, we are left with the diversity of state law on this issue of visitation rights.
It would be wise to work with an attorney if you are experiencing a problem with your visitation agreement. Although you may file your own petition in court to have a visitation agreement enforcement, it is to your benefit to have an expert on your side, particularly in a matter so important as being able to see your children.
A family law attorney in your area can explain your rights, and possible avenues of recourse, so that you will know your options. The lawyer will also have an understanding of state law on child custody and visitation, and this will improve your chances of a favorable outcome.