When parents are going through the process of deciding on child custody during a divorce, it is necessary to understand the details of visitation for the non-custodial parent. Specific visitation laws vary from one state to another, but parents often have some of the same basic questions regarding their visitation rights. Consider the following questions family law attorneys often hear regarding visitation.
Commonly Asked Questions About Visitation
- What does it mean when the judge designates a “fixed visitation” schedule?
Typically, a fixed visitation schedule is one in which the judge orders specific times for the non-custodial parent to spend time with their children. In some circumstances, the judge also designates the place where the visitation should occur. Every family scenario is unique, and in some cases, the judge may decide that a fixed visitation schedule is in the best interest of the children because of the stability it creates for them in an otherwise unstructured and upsetting portion of their childhood.
- What does “reasonable visitation” mean?
Family court judges overseeing divorce and separation cases often use the term “reasonable visitation” in their custody decision. When a judge does this, they don’t provide the parents with a visitation schedule. Instead, they leave it up to the children’s parents to create a visitation plan on their own. For this to be effective, the parents need to be able to cooperate on important decisions for their family, and this is the preferred method of creating a visitation schedule whenever possible. When the parents work together to decide on a plan, they can designate visitation times that work with their own unique schedules.
- What happens if the non-custodial parent is not showing up for their designated visitation time?
If a non-custodial parent fails to exercise their visitation rights, the custodial parent may ask the court to modify the visitation order. This is a matter of great debate, however, as some legal professionals argue that the children may see this as the custodial parent trying to keep them away from their other parent.
Ideally, the goal of the court should be to ensure both parents are able to spend time with the children and be as involved as possible in their lives. This is best for the children, as it reduces the chance of any emotional trauma over feeling unwanted or unloved.
- If a spouse was physically abusive to their partner and children but is still granted visitation rights, how can you prevent them from committing abuse during their visitation time?
It is vital to ensure any history of abuse, whether to the spouse or to the children, is made known to the family court judge before they make a ruling on parental visitation rights. In most cases, if a judge believes a non-custodial parent may abuse or harm the children during their visitation time, they must determine that the time with the children must be supervised.
When supervised visitation is ordered, an adult designated by the judge needs to be present with the non-custodial parent during their visitation time to ensure there is no possibility of child abuse. The judge may appoint someone of their own choosing to this position, or the role could be filled by someone both parents agree on. The court must always approve the individual, however, before they may take on this role.
- Do the children’s grandparents have visitation rights?
Grandparent visitation provisions are available in every state across the country. Such legislation may apply to stepparents or foster parents, in addition to grandparents. The individuals who wish to have visitation must request the right to continue their relationships with the children from the family court. In most cases, the judge will consider the parents’ wishes regarding grandparent visitation, and they may require the grandparents to provide evidence to show they should be allowed to have visitation.
There are many states in which the legislation includes restrictive statutes regarding visitation rights of grandparents. In such cases, the grandparents may only be given visitation rights under special circumstances, such as one in which a parent has passed away. A majority of states, however, have laws that grant visitation to grandparents without restriction, as long as it doesn’t endanger the welfare of the children.
- Can a parent limit the amount of visitation time the grandparents are granted?
When a parent seeks to limit grandparents’ visitation rights, the grandparents could take them to court. If the parent feels they have justifiable reasons for limiting or denying their children time with the grandparents, they should be prepared to provide evidence to back up their claims in court. If the parent wishes to limit the grandparents’ visitation time, as opposed to denying it altogether, it is prudent to plan a visitation schedule ahead of time and provide it to the judge at the hearing.
- What can grandparents do if they have visitation rights, but a parent seeks to limit their time with the children?
In most cases, it is best to go through a mediator first if a parent is attempting to limit the grandparents’ visitation rights. In some situations, a judge will not even hear a case until everyone involved has seen a mediator to attempt to find a resolution. If the mediation process is unsuccessful, the grandparents may take the parents to court, where they must show evidence that they have a strong relationship with the children and that limiting or denying their visitation rights would go against the children’s best interests. It is important to note that the judge may also question the grandparents about any history of problems with the law, as well as their medical history.
Put Your Visitation Concerns in the Hands of a Skilled Attorney
If you are a parent or grandparent with questions or worries about your visitation time with your children or grandchildren, it is crucial to seek legal counsel for answers. The experienced legal team at Stange Law Firm can give you peace of mind and help you navigate the complex court system if it is necessary to take your case before a judge. Contact us today to see how we can help.