Visitation rights laws play a critical role in determining who can have access to a child during visitation sessions. These arrangements often become necessary when the child’s parents are 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 regarding the child or children.
This article will provide context and examples to better understand visitation rights laws, the types of child custody, and the importance of seeking legal help when facing legal issues involving visitation rights.
Types of Child Custody: Legal and Physical
There are two types of child custody when discussing visitation rights: legal custody and physical custody.
Legal custody grants a parent the authority to make essential decisions about a child’s life.
Examples of legal custody decisions include:
- Education: The custodial parent has the right to decide on the child’s school, whether it be public, private, or homeschooling. They can also make decisions about the child’s participation in extracurricular activities, such as sports or clubs.
- Medical Care: The parent with legal custody can make decisions about the child’s healthcare, including choosing a doctor or dentist, authorizing medical treatments, and deciding on mental health services if needed.
- Religious Upbringing: The custodial parent can decide the child’s religious practices, such as which faith to follow or whether to attend religious services.
- Travel: The parent with legal custody has the authority to approve or deny the child’s travel plans, including out-of-state or international trips.
Physical custody refers to the parent with whom the child lives. Examples of physical custody arrangements include:
- Sole Physical Custody: One parent has the child living with them full-time, while the other parent has visitation rights. In this situation, the child primarily resides with the custodial parent, and the non-custodial parent has scheduled time with the child based on a visitation agreement.
- Joint Physical Custody: Both parents share physical custody of the child, meaning the child spends significant time living with each parent. This arrangement may involve alternating weeks, months, or a different schedule that allows the child to maintain close relationships with both parents.
- Bird’s Nest Custody: This is a unique arrangement in which the child remains in the family home while the parents rotate in and out according to a set schedule. This arrangement aims to provide stability for the child by keeping them in a familiar environment.
- Split Custody: In families with multiple children, this arrangement involves dividing the children between the parents. For example, one parent may have physical custody of one child while the other parent has physical custody of another child. This arrangement is less common and generally not recommended, as it may separate siblings and disrupt family relationships.
Are There Visitation Limits for Non-custodial Parents?
The non-custodial parent (the parent without physical custody) may have child visitation rights, but these rights are typically limited to specific times and dates set by a visitation schedule. For example, the non-custodial parent may be allowed to spend time with their child every weekend or every other weekend. The visitation schedule is always created with the child’s best interests and safety in mind.
Two Main Types of Child Visitation Arrangements: Unsupervised and Supervised
There are two primary types of child visitation arrangements: unsupervised visitation and supervised visitation.
Unsupervised visitation allows the non-custodial parent to spend time with their child without a supervisor’s presence.
Examples of unsupervised visitation activities include:
- Taking the child to a park or playground to play together and bond.
- Going to a movie or attending a sports event or other entertainment activity.
- Spending time at the non-custodial parent’s home, engaging in activities like cooking, playing games, or watching television together.
- Participating in the child’s extracurricular activities, such as attending sports games or school events.
- Taking the child on a short trip or vacation during the allocated visitation time.
Supervised visitation requires the parent and child to meet in a controlled environment, monitored by a supervisor.
Examples of supervised visitation activities include:
- Meeting at a designated visitation center or neutral location, such as a community center, where the supervisor can oversee the visit.
- Engaging in structured activities like arts and crafts, board games, or storytelling under the supervisor’s watchful eye.
- Having a meal together at a restaurant or a picnic in a public park, with the supervisor present, to ensure the child’s safety and well-being.
- Attending a counseling or therapy session together, with a therapist or counselor serving as the supervisor.
In cases where a judge sets the visiting schedule and assigns a neutral third party to act as the supervisor, the assigned supervisor could be:
- A professional visitation supervisor from a visitation center or a social service agency.
- A therapist, counselor, or social worker with expertise in family dynamics and child well-being.
- A trusted family member or friend who is mutually agreed upon by both parents and approved by the court.
- A court-appointed guardian ad litem or a court-appointed special advocate (CASA) who represents the child’s best interests during visitation.
Who Has Visitation Rights?
In most cases, the child’s biological parents have visitation rights. These rights are typically automatically granted to the parents unless a parent explicitly forfeits their visitation or custody rights. However, other parties, such as close relatives, stepparents, or individuals who have acted as the child’s caretaker or guardian, may also be granted visitation rights in some instances.
Grandparents’ visitation rights are also frequently granted by the court, especially when the biological parents are unable to care for the child.
Can Someone Lose Visitation Rights?
Visitation rights can sometimes be lost or forfeited by the parent or legal guardian of the child due to reasons such as a history of abuse or violence towards the child or the child’s parent; being deemed “unfit” to care for the child; conviction of certain crimes, including violent felonies, sexual assault, or crimes involving children; or forfeiting legal rights to another party, such as an adoptive parent or grandparent.
Do I Need Legal Help in Visitation Rights Cases?
If you are facing a visitation rights case, it is highly recommended that you seek legal help from a qualified child visitation attorney.
An attorney can help you work through the legal system, understand your rights and obligations, and advocate on your behalf in court. They can also help you negotiate a visitation agreement with the other party, which can be a less expensive and more efficient way to resolve the dispute.
LegalMatch offers a free service that matches you with local attorneys with experience handling visitation rights cases.
With LegalMatch, you can view detailed profiles of attorneys, including their education, experience, and client reviews, so you can make an informed decision about whom to hire.
Once you’ve found an attorney on LegalMatch, you can submit a confidential case review that provides the attorney with the details of your case. The attorney can then review your case and provide you with legal advice and guidance.
LegalMatch’s matching service is free, and attorneys on LegalMatch offer their services at competitive rates.
Use LegalMatch to find an experienced attorney who can help you with your visitation rights case without breaking the bank.