Top Ten Child Visitation Questions

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 Top Ten Child Visitation Questions

The term “child visitation” refers to the set of legal rights that are granted to a non-custodial parent, during divorce or separation proceedings that involve a child. The specific terms of each child visitation arrangement will be detailed in a child visitation agreement or child visitation schedule.

These legal visitation rights are what allow the noncustodial parent to spend time with their biological or adopted child. In addition to the biological parents of the child, grandparents may also seek child visitation rights in some situations. The most common questions related to child visitation guidelines will be discussed below.

1) What Is a Child Visitation Schedule?

A child visitation schedule is a court ordered schedule that helps to organize the times and dates that each parent or other interested party may spend with a child or children. Child visitation schedules are usually based on a rotating schedule that is determined with the child’s best interests in mind.

There are often standardized child visitation schedules that family law courts will provide for parents to choose between. For example, a non-custodial parent may have visitation rights for every other weekend during a month, and an extended period of time during certain times, such as summer, winter, or spring break. Courts prefer that parents reach an agreement together regarding child visitation.

However, if the parents of the child cannot agree as to a child visitation schedule, the court will intervene. A common child visitation agreement will often include the following:

  • The child’s main residence;
  • A detailed visitation schedule that outlines the times in which each parent will possess the child;
  • Acceptable activities that may be performed when in possession of the child;
  • Detailed instructions as to the location of the pick up and drop off of the child;
  • Geographic restrictions for each parent’s residence; and
  • Instructions regarding when the visitation schedule may be modified.

Although state laws vary in terms of custody and visitation rights, it is not uncommon for the parent with sole custody to create a visitation schedule and submit it to the court. Then, if the judge approves the visitation schedule offered by the parent with sole or primary custody, the judge will approve the schedule in a child visitation order. They will then submit it to the court, and if the judge approves, it will become a court order.

2) What Is a Child Visitation Order?

A child visitation order is the official order of the court that sets each parents legal rights to visitation and possession of their child. Once again, parents will typically try to reach a mutual agreement as to a visitation schedule, which the court will then adopt into a final child visitation order. However, in the cases in which the parents cannot reach an agreement, the court will intervene and create a visitation order that is based on the child’s best interest standard.

It is important to note that once the court orders a final child visitation agreement, violations of visitation orders may result in legal penalties or a loss of visitation rights. For example, if the noncustodial parent fails to exercise their visitation rights, then the custodial parent may seek to terminate their parental rights altogether.

Additionally, if the custodial parent fails to make the child available to the noncustodial parent during their ordered visitation time, the noncustodial parent may seek to expand their visitation rights, challenge custody, or file an enforcement.

3) What Factors are Considered When Determining Child Visitation?

Visitation rights laws will always be used when determining child visitation. First and foremost, the court will consider the child’s best interests when determining child visitation. A consideration of the child’s best interests will typically be based on the following factors:

  • The age and the overall well-being of the child;
  • The location of each parent’s residence;
  • The current employment and work history of both parents;
  • If the child is old enough, the court may ask about the child about their living preference; and
  • Each parent’s daily work and life schedules and availability to care for the child.

Once again, courts generally prefer both parents to have an active role in their child’s life. However, if there are past legal issues, such as abuse or domestic violence committed by one parent, the judge may require supervised visitation. In rare cases, the court may order no visitation rights for a parent shown to have committed abuse or domestic violence.

4) Can a Visitation Order Be Changed or Modified?

In short, yes. Once again, visitation orders that have been issued by a judge are binding and enforceable under law. However, there are many circumstances in which a visitation order can be changed or modified.

Examples of circumstances in which a visitation order may be changed or modified include, but are not limited to:

  • Either parent violating the terms of the original visitation order;
  • The visitation order no longer maintains the child’s best interests due to a material or substantial change in circumstances;
  • The current custody arrangement either no longer benefits or actually harms the child;
  • An error was made when the original order was issued; and/or
  • The custodial party engaged in fraud, or falsified documents related to obtaining the original order.

5) What Is Supervised Visitation?

As mentioned above, a court may order supervised visitation in certain situations. If there is a history of abuse between the child and parent or a history of domestic violence by either parent, then a court may order that parent have supervised visitation instead of unsupervised visitation. Supervised visitation involves a third-party being present during periods in which the parent has possession of the child.

Oftentimes there are certain court approved businesses that provide parents a place for supervised visitation. In some cases, a court will consider a parent’s request as to the party that can be present for periods of supervised visitation.

6) What Is Public Visitation?

Similar to supervised visitation, a court may also order visitation to occur only in a public place, such as a library or park where other people are present. Once again, there are approved service providers that offer supervised or public visitation. Public visitation is often ordered by a court to ensure the child’s safety and well being during one parent’s visitation times.

Courts will often specify places to meet for visitation in the child visitation agreement. In other cases, the judge might order the child’s drop off and transfer to occur in a public place, especially if there is a history of conflict between the parents.

7) I’ve Heard of “E-Visitation” or “Virtual Visitation” – What Is This?

E-visitation or virtual visitation is a type of child visitation that occurs when the non-custodial parent seeks and is allowed to communicate with the child through online communication methods, such as video chat. Oftentimes modern child visitation agreements will include a period of time in which the noncustodial parent may communicate with their child via telecommunication or video communication devices.

Typically these periods of virtual visitation must not interfere with the periods of possession of the other parent. Virtual visitation is also commonly used in situations in which the parents live far away from one another and one of the parents is unable to exercise frequent visitation with the child that they would have had if they lived closer to the primary residence of the child. Virtual visitation is commonly used in military situations.

8) What If Grandparents or Other Relatives Want Child Visitation?

There are cases in which a court may allow grandparents visitation rights. Often a court will only order grandparents or other relatives visitation if their biological parents are not available to exercise their parental rights to visitation. For example, if one of the child’s biological parents has passed away, the grandparents of the child on the side of the family where the parent passed away may seek to exercise visitation rights in lieu of that parent.

Additionally, if one or both parents are serving time, a relative or grandparent may seek visitation or custody of the child in order to prevent the child from entering the foster system. Examples of relatives that may seek child visitation include grandparents, uncles, aunts, or even older siblings of the child.

9) Is Child Visitation Allowed If There Is a History of Abuse?

Once again, courts prefer that both biological or adopted parents of a child have contact with the child. However, if there is a history of abuse, child visitation will typically be limited to supervised visitation, public visitation, or virtual visitation. In cases of a severe history of abuse, courts will typically eliminate a parent’s right to visitation altogether and may even allow the parent’s rights to be terminated.

10) Do I Need a Lawyer for Child Visitation Issues?

As can be seen, there are numerous issues that must be addressed when it comes to child visitation. As such, if you are the parent of a child, or are a relative that is seeking to exercise child visitation, then it is in your best interests to consult with an experienced child visitation lawyer.

An experienced child visitation will be able to help you understand your state’s laws regarding child custody and visitation. Additionally, an attorney will also be able to assist you in building a case regarding your parental rights to custody and visitation. Finally, an attorney will also be able to represent you in court, as needed.

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