Family matters can get heated when a divorce is underway. Child custody cases often get particularly sensitive as the parents try to establish the new grounds. Denying visitation rights isn’t something a custodial parent can force over another one. So the short answer to this question is “no”. However, as with most other areas of family law and parental rights, that “no” is not always set in stone.
Visitation Rights Court Process Explained
First, remember that during the divorce and child custody proceedings there has been a decision made about custody of the children. Depending on the circumstances, you could receive anything from 50/50 joint custody to giving primary custody, to one parent with visitation rights for the non-custodial parent, to no visitation rights, if the court has serious concerns about such an arrangement.
Visitation can always be modified through the courts and does occur, for example, when one parent relocates. It is a legal process, and the court will hear the arguments and make a decision.
So, the question becomes this: Can a custodial parent just deny visitation to the non-custodial parent?
Visitation Rights Denial is Generally Illegal
If there is a current custody order in force, and that order provides for visitation of the non-custodial parent, then denial of visitation is illegal and in violation of that court order.
If the custodial parent has a reason for denying visitation, then the proper process is to go back to court and present the case for denial. Being in contempt of a court order is never a good thing to do.
Are There Emergency Situations?
Yes, there certainly are. Suppose, for example, that the custodial parent becomes aware of drug abuse or child abuse on the part of the non-custodial parent, or someone residing in the non-custodial parent’s residence.
And if such an emergency should arise, the custodial parent will want to take immediate action, which might include refusing a visitation time despite the court order. In this circumstance, it may be wise to call the police, if the situation is obviously dire. This can substantiate any later court proceeding.
How to Proceed if You Are the Custodial Parent
Get in touch with your attorney, state your reasons for emergency denial, and follow the advice you are given. In many instances, attorneys can go to court with what evidence there is and request a temporary court order to deny visitation until there is a hearing.
But if you are attempting to deny visitation because of some non-emergency situation, you are better advised to continue the visitation order and go back to court with your issues. This might be the case if child support payments are late or have stopped.
If you attempt to deny visitation for non-emergency reasons, the court may, in fact, punish you. You may have to give makeup visitations; you may suffer a cut in child support; and, in extreme instances, the custodial parent could lose custody.
How to Proceed if You Are the Denied Non-Custodial Parent
If visitation has been denied for any reason you believe to be unfounded, then you, too, must contact your attorney immediately. Suppose, for example, that your former spouse is refusing visitation because you are late in your child support payments. Or perhaps the children have stated they do not want to see you.
In any case, you will be finding yourself back in court to attempt to enforce the visitation order, if this is what you want. And, of course, if there are serious accusations, you will need to defend yourself.
If you are a custodial parent with an emergency or non-emergency reason to deny visitation, or if you're a non-custodial parent whose visitation rights have been denied unjustly, you need good legal advice. Contact our Family Law experts today.