In a divorce, one parent is usually granted custody of the children and the other parent is granted visitation rights in order to spend time with the children.
Visitation rights have the force of law and should not be abused. If this happens, here are steps you can take.
Common abuses of visitation rights occur when a custodial parent refuses to turn the child over to the other parent for visitation time.
If the custodial parent refuses to comply with the custody order, the non-custodial parent should keep a careful written record of each violation. Do this to show a “pattern of interference” with visitation rights. Write down dates, times and other important details, such as efforts to reschedule missed visits and the custodial parent’s response to your efforts.
Try to work It Out
If the problem with violation is minor and the parents are on good terms, a simple discussion and change of schedules may solve the problem. If issues persist, many courts will order both parents to attend counseling or mediation.
File a Motion with the Court
If problems persist, a non-custodial parent can file a motion with the family court to make sure that the visitation plan is enforced. In response, the court can clarify the visitation plan, increase visitation rights, schedule and enforce additional visits, decrease spousal support, hold the custodial parent in contempt of court or even, in rare cases, change primary custody. A lawyer can help.
Exceptions for Child Endangerment
If either parent feels that the child would be endangered by a visit or by return home after a visit, the parent can violate the terms of the visitation agreement. But he or she must be able to defend this decision in court.
Do Not Stop Support
A frustrated non-custodial parent whose visitation rights are being abused might be tempted to stop making support payments. Never do this. There is no legal connection between visitation rights and court-ordered support.
Grandparents’ Rights to Visitation
Until recently, only natural or adoptive parents enjoyed the legal right to post-divorce visitation. Now, however, courts in most states will grant visitation rights to other relatives, such as grandparents and step-parents, as long as they can demonstrate that this visitation is in the best interests of the child.
A Family Lawyer Can Help
The laws surrounding enforcement of visitation rights are complicated and contentious. Plus, the facts of each case are unique. This article provides a brief, general introduction to the topic. For more detailed, specific information, please contact a family law lawyer.