What You Should Know About Visitation Rights and the Law
When parents divorce or end their relationship, they work hard to gain custody or visitation rights with their children and the last thing they want is for something, or someone, to prevent them from seeing the children. In some cases, it is the custodial parent that stands in the way when the non-custodial parent is attempting to obtain visitation. The custodial parent withholding this visitation from the other parent is a very serious matter and can often have very severe consequences.
Visitation Agreements are Legally Binding
After parents end their marriage or their relationship, they will often have a child custody and visitation agreement that is submitted to the judge and, once approved, becomes a legally binding document. Should either parent disrupt the outlines of this document, such as the custodial parent withholding visitation, the non-custodial parent not returning the children on schedule, or the non-custodial parent not paying child support, they are considered to be in violation of this court order.
When issues with a parenting plan or visitation schedule arise, they should always be addressed through the family court system and, in some states, they can also be addressed by local police. The parent who feels the visitation schedule has been compromised should always petition the court, preferably with the help of a family law attorney, to have the visitation schedule enforced as it stands or petition the court to make changes to the parenting plan to better address their needs.
Regardless of the relationship between the parents, the custodial parent should not withhold visitation from the non-custodial parent for any reason. While the custodial parent may be doing so in retaliation for something the non-custodial parent has done, they often do not realize that it not only hurts the non-custodial parent but also the children involved in the situation. Some of the reasons why a custodial parent may withhold visitation from the other parent include:
- Retaliation for the non-custodial parents actions
- Feeling slighted or angry after the divorce has been finalized
- Not believing the non-custodial parent is capable of caring for the children
- The non-custodial parent not upholding their end of the visitation schedule
- The non-custodial parent not being prompt or not paying their child support
No matter what the situation may be, there is no good or lawful reason to withhold visitation from the non-custodial parent. Should issues with the parenting plan arise, it is best for the custodial parent not to take matters into their own hands by denying visitation but to follow the proper course of action through the family court system. Like many circumstances regarding divorce and child custody, seeking the legal advice of a knowledgeable family law attorney is always recommended.
What if Withholding Visitation is Infrequent?
There are some circumstances where schedules conflict and either the custodial or non-custodial parent cannot follow the visitation schedule as it is written. If this happens infrequently, the parents should work together to schedule a different time or different day for the non-custodial parent to fulfill their visitation time. This can often be done without having to contact a lawyer or go through the court system should the parents have the ability to agree to the make-up time amicably and on their own.
What Happens When the Custodial Parent Withholds or Will Not Reschedule Visitation Time?
In some cases, the parents are unable to work together. When this happens, the custodial parent is often unwilling to work with the non-custodial parent to reschedule the visitation time they missed or may withhold visitation altogether if the non-custodial parent appears to be uninterested in following the parenting plan. When this occurs, the non-custodial parent should contact a family law attorney and take the issue through the family court system in order to have their visitation rights upheld.
Just as custodial parents may withhold visitation in retaliation for the non-custodial parents actions, the non-custodial parent may withhold child support payments in retaliation for not being able to visit with the children. Just as withholding visitation is against the law, so is withholding child support payments. It is important to remember that both these actions, not allowing visitation and not paying child support, will not only punish the other parent but will also punish the children. Since the welfare of the children is compromised, the family court system is quick to punish those who commit these two actions.
When withholding visitation becomes a regular problem from the custodial parent, the court system has an additional option to address the problem aside from legally forcing the parent to uphold the visitations. If the custodial parent consistently withholds visitations, even after being taken to court, the family court judge has the option to permanently transfer custody of the children to the non-custodial parent as a form of punishment for the custodial parent not upholding their end of the agreement.
Can Visitation Be Withheld if Child Support is Not Being Paid?
Visitation should not be withheld for any reason, even if the non-custodial parent is past-due or not paying their child support. Should an issue like this arise, the custodial parent should continue to follow the set parenting plan and take the child support payment issue to the family court system. If the judge sees that the custodial parent has been taking matters into their own hands by withholding visitation, the custodial parent may face additional consequences from the court.
Non-custodial parents should not withhold child support payments as retaliation for not receiving the proper visitation. Should the custodial parent withhold visitation from the non-custodial parent, the non-custodial parent should continue to make their child support payments as scheduled and contact a family law attorney to assist with petitioning the court to uphold the parenting plan as it is outlined. Following the proper course of action will produce a much more favorable outcome than withholding child support or visitation as a form of retaliation.
Kidnapping Charges Possible Through Visitation Disputes
In some extreme cases, the non-custodial parent will keep the children longer than they should if the custodial parent has been withholding visitation from them previously. While the non-custodial parent may see this as being able to make up the visitation time they were not allowed to have, the court system views this as kidnapping and the parent can be arrested and charged for this crime. It is important for the non-custodial parent to follow the visitation schedule as it is outlined and take up any issues they have regarding visitation being withheld with an attorney and the family court system.
When visitation is withheld from non-custodial parents, it can be a very emotional issue. In the cases of child custody and visitation, when one parent becomes emotionally charged, they often make rash decision that could harm them and their time with the children down the line. When issues with child custody and visitation arise, it is always in the parent’s best interest to seek the legal advice and counseling of a family law attorney to ensure they following the proper course of action.