The right of visitation grants the noncustodial parent an opportunity to visit and spend time with their children in between being separated from their children. These rights are usually handled within state courts as part of broader family law proceedings concerning issues such as divorce, separation, child support, and alimony.
A child custody dispute over visitation can lead to significant conflict between the parties, often between former spouses who are still hostile over their shared past. These disputes can be compounded when one parent feels the child is not being treated well during visitation; one parent keeps their child longer than allowed, or when grandparents seek visitation over the parent's objections.
When parents split apart, they often bring that hostility and anger to the child's visitation situations. When they cannot agree on parenting arrangements or let their tempers flare in front of their children, it can be traumatic for the children involved.
Except in unusual circumstances, such as parents' incarceration, neglect, or abuse, by agreement, or default, all or most of the child's time is spent with both parents.
Family law courts have great flexibility when deciding child visitation disputes. Specifically, the phrase "best interests of the child" are used as a guidepost. A typical dispute of this nature occurs when the nature of the parents' disagreement has more to do with their concerns than with the actual needs of their shared child.
The best interests of the child standard are the cornerstone of almost all child visitation practices and statutes in developed countries. The standard refers to how a parent should behave during and following the divorce.
It is commonly used as a primary consideration in family law to determine the amount of visitation in circumstances where the parents are no longer together or have never been together. Courts will make the judgment based on the (somewhat vague) interpretation of the child's best interests. They will consider several influencing factors such as the parental emotional ties to the child, the financial support each parent contributes, and each parent's ability to provide a safe, stable, and nurturing home environment. Purposefully disrupting a child's education and social support structure is regarded poorly, along with other behavior the court deems inappropriate.
The first and most crucial step in getting a child visitation order is to determine what special arrangement is needed. Even though every situation is unique, there is a fundamental process for assessing and obtaining a child visitation order.
First, the noncustodial parent should talk to the other parent to ensure they are on board with the request if the other parent agrees, file a motion for visitation with the court.
If the parent agrees, but the court does not, the court will hold a hearing and assign a visitation schedule. The court will also order the other parent to pay child support.
To initiate a case, the parent seeking visitation must file a petition. That parent or the one seeking custody and support can bring the case.
Clarification of Visitation Order
When child visitation modification becomes necessary, the court retains jurisdiction during this period. Both parent may request to modify visitation, and once visitation and monetary support can be modified, they will very likely be modified at the same time.
Though courts will always act in the best interests of the child standard, a motion to modify visitation also comes within the meaning of "changed circumstances." Section 9102, by way of example, outlines the modification requirements:
(a) After filing a petition, when visitation is in issue, the court may modify an order granting or denying visitation rights whenever modification would serve the child's best interests. The court shall not modify a prior order or decree granting ...partial or supervised visitation rights unless it finds, upon facts presented ... that a change has occurred in the circumstances of the child, the child's custodian, or the parent or person acting as the child's custodian, and that the modification is necessary to serve the best interests of the child.
The gist of that provision is that the moving party must prove that circumstances have substantially changed since the most recent order or modification was entered and that the modification is necessary to serve the child's best interests.
For situations that require an attorney, you should call an attorney licensed to practice in your state.
Child visitation, like other family law matters, greatly depends on the degree to which the parents cooperate in making decisions that are in their child's best interests. If parents cannot agree, they have to get permission from the court for any particular type of visitation they seek.
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