Court -Ordered Visitation: What You Need To Know
Whether you and your spouse were able to work together to create a fair, workable child visitation agreement on your own or whether the family court intervened and created one for you, you should know that you are obligated to follow the order. Since child custody, support and visitation can be among the most contentious of issues when divorcing, the potential for problems when working with the ordered plans can be high. Once child visitation is set, you or your ex-spouse cannot modify the plan by denying visitation, so read on to learn more about how to handle some common child visitation issues.
Should You Deny Visitation?
Problems can arise, and in some circumstances you may not want to allow your ex-spouse their court-ordered visitation. Tread very carefully when denying visitation: you must keep the best interest of the child at the forefront of any actions you take to prevent the non-custodial parent their visitation. If you allege bad behavior on the part of your ex, be prepared to show proof of that wrongdoing before a family court.
Emergency suspensions of child visitation could be warranted if you suspect (or know) that child abuse is occurring with the non-custodial parent. Make sure that you contact the police first, and then your attorney to request the suspension and to schedule a visitation modification hearing. Make sure that you gather as much proof as possible for the hearing, including the police report and medical records.
The same route should be followed for any allegations of alcohol or drug abuse. Be aware that proving these allegations is both important and tricky. Without an arrest, you may have only your suspicions to show the court. If you are found to be making false accusations, your custody arrangement could be placed in jeopardy. Remember, the courts place the best interest of the child at the top of the priority list, and a parent who makes false claims is not demonstrating good parenting.
You Should Not Deny Visitation for These Reasons
Child support non-payment. You can be excused if you are under the impression that a parent who fails to meet child support obligations has no rights to their court-ordered visitation, but this perception is entirely false. Unlike the connection between child visitation and child custody, child support and child visitation are completely separate issues. That does not mean that it's okay for your ex to miss or fall behind on child support payments, however. You must take legal action against your ex-spouse, and most states pursue deadbeat parents quite vigorously, with penalties for non-support ranging from wage garnishment to jail time. That being said, you must continue to allow your ex their visitation unless you can show good cause to have the visitation order amended, and non-payment of support is not a valid reason.
Ex-spouse in new relationship. Unless you can show that the new relationship is endangering your child in some way, this is never a reason to deny visitation. The new situation does merit close scrutiny, however, since any new person in your child's life could be a potential bad influence or even a danger.
Minor issues. The courts expects parents to settle minor problems without their intervention. Issues like late pick- ups or drop-offs, poor meal choices for the child, letting the child stay up too late, etc., are not issues for denying visitation, or for amending the agreement.
Contact your family law attorney or check out websites like http://madisonlf.com for more information about visitation agreements.