Visitation rights laws help to determine which persons have access to child visitation sessions. Child visitation arrangements may become necessary when the child’s parents have either separated or have filed for divorce, and only one parent is granted custody of the child.
In such cases, the non-custodial parent may be granted certain visitation rights in regard to the child or children.
Briefly, when it comes to child custody and visitation rights, there are two types of child custody: legal custody and physical custody. Legal custody means having the right to make important decisions about a child (e.g., education, religious upbringing, etc.), and physical custody refers to the physical location of where the child lives.
While the non-custodial parent (i.e., the parent who does not have physical custody of the child) may have child visitation rights, these rights are usually limited to the times and dates that are set according to a visitation schedule.
For instance, the non-custodial parent may be able to spend time with their child every weekend, or every other weekend. Regardless, the child visitation schedule is always created by keeping the child’s best interests as well as safety in mind.
In general, there are two main types of child visitation arrangements: unsupervised visitation and supervised visitation.
Unsupervised visitation is the most common type of arrangement. It permits a non-custodial parent to spend time with their child without the supervision of a neutral third party (i.e., a supervisor).
On the other hand, supervised visitation requires that the parent and the child meet in a controlled environment in the presence of a supervisor who will be responsible for overseeing their interactions during a visitation session. In such instances, the visiting schedule will typically be set by a judge who will also assign a neutral third party to act as the supervisor.
A court may order supervised visitation for a variety of reason, such as:
- When a parent has a history of abuse, neglect, or substance abuse;
- If there are general concerns regarding a parent’s parenting skills or mental fitness;
- When a child is being reintroduced to their parent; or
- If there is a possible risk that the parent will kidnap the child.
This helps to ensure the child’s overall safety and well-being during the visitation session, while still also enabling the non-custodial parent to spend time with their child.
Who Has Visitation Rights?
In most cases, it is the child’s parents who have visitation rights. Normally, these rights are automatically granted to the biological parents, such as the father, unless a parent expressly gives up (forfeits) their rights to visitation or custody of the child.
Other parties can also sometimes be granted visitation rights. This is especially true if the person has acted as the child’s caretaker or guardian at some point. This may include individuals who are close relatives of the parents or stepparents.
Grandparents’ visitation rights are also frequently granted by the court. This often occurs in cases where the biological parents are not able to care for the child for various reasons.
Can Someone Lose Visitation Rights?
As previously mentioned, visitation rights can sometimes be lost or forfeited by the parent or legal guardian of the child. This can be due to reasons, such as the following:
- When there is a history of abuse or violence toward the child or the child’s parent;
- The parent or guardian of the child has been deemed “unfit” in regard to taking care of the child;
- The parent or guardian has been convicted of certain crimes, such as violent felonies, sexual assault, or crimes involving children; or
- The parent has forfeited their legal rights to another party (e.g., an adoptive parent, a grandparent, and so on).
Additionally, visitation arrangements can also sometimes be modified by the court in order to protect the child’s safety.
Do I Need to Hire a Lawyer if I Have Legal Issues Involving Visitation Rights?
Visitation rights laws vary widely by state. Although custody and visitation cases may share certain similarities, many decisions are impacted by the statutes governing the laws of a particular state and are heavily based on the facts surrounding an individual case. This means that the results of each case will most likely be different from the next.
As such, if you are experiencing issues involving visitation rights laws, then it may be in both you and your child’s best interests to consult a child visitation attorney.
A local attorney, who has experience in this area of law, will be able to determine what visitation rights you have according to the rules that are applicable to your jurisdiction. An attorney can also represent you in court on the matter and can make sure that your rights are being adequately protected.
Additionally, an attorney can help ensure that your child is receiving the most advantageous visitation arrangement, which can have a long-lasting, positive impact on their lives as they continue to grow into adulthood.