In general, visitation rights may be awarded to a noncustodial parent during a divorce or in connection with child custody proceedings. Visitation rights are a form of parental rights that allow a noncustodial parent to spend time with their child. In determining whether to award a parent visitation rights, courts in the United States apply the child’s best interest standard.
Some examples of the factors that a court may evaluate when applying the child’s best interest standard in order to determine whether to award a parent custody or visitation rights include the following:
- The financial background and ability of each parent to provide for their child;
- The daily schedule of each parent, including both their social and work schedules;
- The current employment status and past work history for each parent;
- The physical and/or mental well-being of each parent;
- The child’s desire as to which parent they would prefer to physically live with; and
- The place where each parent resides and how close it is in proximity to a child’s school, doctor, friends, community, and other factors.
The majority of courts believe that it is important for a child to develop a healthy and meaningful relationship with each of their parents. Thus, it is rare that a court will refuse to grant a parent some degree of visitation rights over their child. The one exception being is if the custodial parent can prove that the noncustodial parent has a history of assaulting or sexually abusing a child.
In some cases, it may also be enough for a court to deny the noncustodial parent visitation rights if the custodial parent can prove that they were violent and abusive towards them as well, or that the noncustodial parent is involved in illegal or criminal activities that would be harmful to the child’s wellbeing.
Barring these exceptions, either parent may be awarded custody or visitation rights over a child, and some may even share custodial responsibilities. Thus, a father’s right to visitation carries the same meaning as it does for a mother’s right to visitation: that a parent has a right to visit and spend time with their child. Although the traditional path for courts was to award physical custody to the mother of a child, that is no longer the case in present day.
Today, the courts focus on which parent is best suited to take care of the child, rather than on gender stereotypes. Accordingly, being a father or a mother does not bar you from receiving visitation rights over your child.
Also, regardless of which child’s parent is considered the noncustodial parent and is granted visitation rights, such rights will generally include the following:
- The right to visit a child in accordance with what is prescribed in the couple’s divorce decree;
- The right to be free from the other parent’s control and scrutiny during a visit with a child;
- The right to spend the entire time with the child and not a minute less;
- The right to modify a divorce decree when its terms are no longer feasible for the parties;
- The right to seek an injunction from a court to prohibit the other parent from taking the child out of state; and
- The right to schedule activities with the child, so long as they are safe and done in compliance with the separated couple’s divorce decree.
Despite the fact that it is unconstitutional to assign a parent rights based on their gender, there are some instances when a father’s rights may be limited in regard to what actions they may take as a child’s paternal figure. For example, a father does not have the right to withhold child support payments, even if the mother of a child refuses to let the father exercise their visitation rights.
Finally, fathers also do not have a right to either verbally or physically assault the child’s mother in order to enforce their visitation rights. Instead, they must seek to remedy the situation by asking a court to modify an existing child custody or child visitation order. To learn more about this process, you should consult with a local family law attorney for further legal counsel.
How Do I Establish and Assert My Rights as a Father?
In order for a father to establish and assert their rights over a child, they must first establish that they are in fact that child’s father. This process is known as establishing paternity. One way that a father can establish paternity is by submitting a marriage certificate to the court that shows that they were married to the mother of a child at the time of the child’s birth. While this can help prove that they are most likely the child’s father, it does not fully guarantee it.
Another and much more effective way for a father to establish paternity is by providing the child’s birth certificate that contains their name in the space where it says, “Father of Child,” or a title that expresses a similar sentiment. If an alleged father has neither a marriage certificate nor is listed as the father on a child’s birth certificate, then they will need to sign an acknowledgment of paternity form and file it in court.
This form will also require the signature of the child’s mother. It should be noted that some states have passed statutes of limitations, which prescribe how long a father will have to establish paternity. The father must do this before the window expires.
Once a court issues a ruling on whether the individual is in fact the child’s biological father, then the father may pursue child custody, visitation, and any other parental rights to which they may be entitled. This is true regardless of whether the father is married, divorced, separated, or was never married to the child’s mother. However, the father will need to establish paternity first in order to gain any of these rights.
A father may also have to undergo a background check, be evaluated by a physician, and any other testing that a court may order. A father may not automatically be granted visitation rights just because they established paternity, but it does help with completing the process.
Finally, it is important to keep in mind that if an individual has a history of abuse, domestic violence, or a criminal record, that this conduct can impact a court’s decision as to whether to deny or award a father visitation rights to their child.
Again, while it is rare for a court to deny visitation rights completely, it can and has happened before. Just remember, these legal procedures exist to ensure a child’s best interests are being considered and that they remain free from harm.
Should I Hire an Attorney for Help with Father’s Visitation Rights?
In general, it can be difficult to predict the outcome of a case involving family law issues. The reason for this is because the laws that govern family law issues and related legal rights tend to vary considerably by jurisdiction. Thus, even though a case may concern the same legal issue, such as a father’s right to visit their child, the laws of a particular state and the facts surrounding a specific case will affect how a court rules in every case.
Therefore, if you are a father who is seeking to gain visitation rights or child custody over your child, then it is strongly recommended that you contact a local child visitation attorney immediately for further legal advice. An attorney who has experience in handling child visitation matters will already be familiar with the family laws in your state and can inform you of your legal rights as a parent under those laws.
Depending on your circumstances, your attorney will be able to assist you in drafting or modifying a child visitation or child custody agreement. Your attorney can also help you to negotiate different terms with the counsel representing your child’s other parent. In addition, your attorney can make sure that your current child visitation rights are protected and can potentially ask the court if it would be willing to grant you increased parental rights.
Lastly, your attorney will also be able to determine whether or not it is possible for you to gain child custody rights, and if not, can offer suggestions on how you can pursue the most beneficial visitation arrangement for both you and your child. On a final note, if you and your child live in separate states, your attorney may be able to petition the court for a new type of child visitation arrangement in family law known as virtual visitation.