During a divorce or a child custody dispute, the court will order custody arrangements for both parents to follow. The court's standard for determining the custody arrangements is what's in the best interests of the child, meaning what is best for the child's overall well-being. If one parent is awarded custody, the other parent will normally be awarded visitation rights. However, the custodial parent may interfere with those visitation rights. If you have been awarded visitation rights, talk with your attorney about your legal options if the other parent is interfering with them.
Right to Child Visitation
You'll usually be awarded visitation rights if the other parent is awarded custody. The court wants the child to have a continuing contact with both parents. The court will only withhold visitation rights for extreme situations, such as danger to the child. Sometimes a court will order supervised visitation if there's been past child neglect or threats to take the child.
Reasons for Child Visitation Interference
Sometimes the divorce process can end with bitter feelings and intense emotions. The custodial parent may try to punish the other parent by restricting visitation. The custodial parent may withhold letters and talk negatively about the other parent. A custodial parent may deliberately schedule a child's appointments and activities to conflict with scheduled visitation.
Solutions to Child Visitation Interference
Courts recognize that it's normally in the best interests of the childto have the custodial parent nurture and encourage a relationship between the other parent and the child. A court may impose a duty on the custodial parent to ensure that the child and the other parent have a relationship together. The custodial parent may meet this obligation by:
- Encouraging the child to interact with the other parent
- Making sure that the child visits and has frequent contact with the other parent
- Not undermining the relationship between the child and the other parent
If the custodial parent interferes with the other parent's visitation rights, the court may modify the custody and visitation arrangements. Some examples include:
- Increase in visitation rights
- Make-up visits
- Visitation must occur outside the custodial parent's home
- Change in custody to other parent
A court will normally only change child custody to the other parent in extreme circumstances. The best interests of the childstandard guides the court as to the level of modification of the custody and visitation arrangements.
Child Support and Visitation Rights
A court will treat child support and visitation as two separate issues. If the other parent is entitled to child support, you can't withhold support on the basis that the other parent is preventing your visits with your child. You have a duty to your child to pay support. You must go to court to enforce your visitation rights.
Questions for Your Attorney
- What legal steps can I take if my ex-spouse is interfering with my child visitation rights?
- May I withhold child support if my ex-spouse is restricting my visitation rights?
- May I prevent my ex-spouse from visiting our child if I believe the child is in danger?