During a divorce or legal separation proceeding, couples who have children will typically have to decide who gets custody. There are two types of child custody arrangements: legal custody and physical custody. Legal custody means having the right to make important decisions about a child, whereas physical custody refers to the physical location of where the child lives.

Physical custody is the type of custody that is most important for creating visitation agreements. This is because visitation agreements generally describe the rights that a parent has to visit a child, which oftentimes refers to the rights of the non-custodial parent (i.e., the parent who does not have physical custody of a child for the majority of the time).

More specifically, a visitation agreement is an agreement made between a child’s parents that creates a visitation schedule and outlines each parent’s visitation rights. After the parents finalize the visitation agreement, it must be approved by a court. Once the court approves, it then becomes a legally enforceable agreement.

Thus, since visitation agreements are legally enforceable, a violation of one is treated very seriously and can lead to significant legal consequences.

What is a Violation of a Visitation Agreement?

As mentioned, visitation agreements are legally binding documents that can have serious legal ramifications if violated. In many instances, a violation of a visitation agreement is considered a kidnapping.

For example, if a custodial parent fails to deliver a child to a scheduled visitation, or otherwise prevents the visitation from happening, that parent is in direct violation of a court order. They can potentially be held criminally liable for their actions.   

Some other common examples of violations may include:

  • Keeping the child with you for a longer amount of time than what is provided by the visitation agreement;
  • Failing to inform the other parent of the child’s location;
  • Taking the child outside of state lines or on a long trip without asking for approval first; 
  • Permitting an unauthorized person to care for the child; and
  • Various other violations that may occur on a case-by-case basis.

What Should I Do If My Visitation Time was Denied by the Other Parent?

If the other parent violated the visitation agreement, it may be in the best interest of both parents to first attempt to work it out themselves without involving the courts. This is especially true if it was only a one-time violation because it will save everyone a lot of time and energy to let it go once.

If violating the agreement becomes a habit, however, then the non-violating parent may want to involve the courts to stop other related issues from occurring. The non-violating parent also has the option of pressing criminal charges, but this should only be used as a last resort.

In the event that a court must intervene, the parents should appear before the family court that first approved the visitation agreement initially. This is because that court will be in the best position to determine whether or not the agreement truly has been violated.

Can I Violate a Visitation Agreement If It is in the Child’s Best Interest?

A visitation agreement should never be violated because denial of visitation rights for any reason is illegal. It is the responsibility of the court to determine the best interests of a child, as it is often the case that a child’s parents are usually unable to remain objective in such a matter. 

If a parent is truly concerned that the other parent may jeopardize the safety of their child, then that parent should either contact the police immediately. They may also wait to get a court order that modifies the visitation agreement

What Happens If a Parent Denies Visitation, but I am Not Listed on the Visitation Agreement?

If a person is denied visitation rights, but is not listed on the visitation agreement, then the parents will not face any legal repercussions. This is because there is no legal obligation to permit that person to visit. 

This type of problem often arises in connection with relatives, such as grandparents. The best way to resolve this situation is to fix any issues that exist between the person and the legal parents of the children. 

If such a resolution is impossible and the person still wants to visit the child, then that person will have to attempt to get their name added to the visitation agreement. This is usually accomplished by convincing the court that allowing such visitations to occur is in the child’s best interest.

What are the Penalties for Denying Visitation?

A court may order any missed visitation time to be made up. After repeated violations, the court can hold the offending parent in contempt of court, which could subject them to a loss of custody or visitation rights, fines, and possibly jail time.

Do I Need a Lawyer to Help with Issues Involving Visitation Agreements?

Once a court approves a visitation agreement, it automatically gives the parties to the agreement certain visitation rights, including access to their child. As such, one party may not deprive the other of any visitation rights that were set out in the agreement. If they do, then they will be in violation of the visitation agreement and can be held in contempt of court.

Violations of visitation agreements can have far-reaching legal consequences that may affect the rights of either parent. More importantly, these violations can also impact the child and may cause them to be placed in situations that are not ideal for them. 

Thus, if you think your visitation rights have been violated, then you should contact a child visitation attorney immediately. An attorney who has experience in this field will be able to ensure that your visitation rights are protected, can help you modify the existing visitation agreement for your benefit, and can represent you in court, if necessary.