Parental Visitation Rights FAQ

What does reasonable visitation mean?

It has been customary in recent years for courts to assign “reasonable visitation rights” to parents who no longer have legal and physical custody of their children. When parents formally disagreed on the timing of visits, the pattern was decreed by the court. Generally a twice-monthly overnight or weekend visit is ordered with exact times specified for the starting and end of each contact. In the absence of a formal legal dispute, “reasonable visitation” has been left to the parents to establish.

In such cases, the custodial parent generally holds the upper hand and often decides what is reasonable. The custodial parent need not agree to any schedule which the non-custodial parent proposes. However if the custodial parent is being inflexible only to frustrate the other parent, the judge can change the order if the non-custodial parent makes an application.

Reasonable visitation will work only if the parents are willing to work together for the benefit of the children. If your spouse is unlikely to co-operate, you will be at his or her mercy. You may see your kids if and when your spouse feels like allowing you to do so. Your attorney should ask the court to set specific visitation provisions before the custody judgment is finalized. If the schedule you request places no undue hardship on the custodial parent, it will likely be granted. Very few judges will allow an adequate parent who loses a custody dispute to leave court empty-handed.

What is fixed visitation?

Sometimes the order will specify the times and places where the visitation rights must be exercised. For example, the order may state that the non-custodial parent must be allowed visitation on Wednesdays and Fridays between 1 pm and 6 pm. Courts generally favor fixed visitation as it is likely to avoid conflicts between the spouses. Also by fixing the visitation schedules, the courts try to ensure stability in the children’s lives.

My ex-spouse abused our children during the marriage. The court has granted him visitation rights. How do I ensure that he does not abuse the children during the visitation?

You should point out this fact to the court at the time the court is deciding on visitation rights. If there is a likelihood of abuse, the court will order a supervised visitation. There will be another adult (not the custodial parent) present at the time of the visitation. If the parents cannot agree on this third person, the court will appoint someone.

I am a grandparent. Can I get visitation rights?

The law has provisions for grandparent visitation. Under certain circumstances, the grandparents can apply for and will be awarded custody of their grandchildren. Grandparent rights is a relatively recent phenomenon. Most of the state statutes on grandparent rights are less then 40 years old. Every state has legislation authorizing grandparent visitation. In each case the courts decision to allow grandparent visitation is guided by the best interests of the child. In some states grandparents will be awarded visitation only in certain circumstances.

I am the custodial parent. Can I limit the grandparent visitation time?

If you attempt to limit the grandparent visitation rights, the grandparents can move the court seeking to enforce their rights. If you believe you have a valid reason to limit the visitation and you have evidence to support your belief, you can move the court seeking to limit the visitation.

Do not attempt to deny or limit grandparent visitation just for your emotional satisfaction or to boost your ego. You will only be wasting your time and money.

Ideally you should plan out a visitation schedule with the grandparents before going to court. This will let you have a say in the visitation schedule rather than have one forced on you. Reasonable grandparent visitation will depend on the circumstances of the case but a few afternoons each month for a couple of hours that would allow some activity and a meal will generally be considered as reasonable.

How can a grandparent enforce visitation rights?

If you are a grandparent and the custodial parent is seeking to limit your visitation rights, you should first try and resolve the issues through mediation. In some states before you can move the courts to enforce your visitation rights, you must attempt to resolve the issue through mediation. Mediation or structured negotiation as it is sometime called is an informal and private alternative to settling the issue. In mediation an impartial and neutral third party known as the mediator helps the parties reach an agreement on the issues.

Mediation sadly does not work in all cases. If mediation fails, you will have to fight it out in the court. You must provide evidence of your relationship with your grandchild and why it is in the child’s best interest that you be given visitation rights. Your personal circumstances such as health and criminal history may also be a factor.

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