Child Visitation Law

What is Child Visitation Law?

Child visitation law governs the rights of non-custodial parents to spend time with their child. These cases are usually handled by state courts as part of broader family law proceedings dealing with issues such as divorce, separation, alimony, and child support and custody. Visitation rights allow the parent with whom the child does not live to take physical custody of the child for specific, regularly-scheduled periods of time.

A number of legal disputes can arise with respect to child visitation. The parents may not be able to agree to a visitation schedule, requiring the court to step in and decide the matter. Once a schedule has been determined, one parent may decide that subsequent events have created a need to alter the schedule, again leading to potential disagreement between the parties. Contention can also result when the custodial parent feels the child is not being properly cared for during visits, when the non-custodial parent keeps the child longer than allowed, or when a grandparent seeks visitation over the objection of the parents.

Regardless of the nature of a visitation dispute, this area of the law is often characterized by a hostile emotional atmosphere created by the failure of the parents’ previous romantic relationship. After a couple parts ways, the animosity they feel toward each other can make it very difficult for them to agree on child visitation issues without court intervention. Sadly, when parents cannot behave amicably, the child is the one who suffers most.

The “Best Interests of the Child” Standard

Family law courts settle child visitation disputes by applying a standard known as the “best interests of the child.” This phrase, articulated almost identically by courts of every state, is used to reference a child’s physical, emotional, and developmental welfare. Especially in situations where the nature of the parents’ disagreement regarding visitation has more to do with their own personal concerns, the standard serves to refocus everyone’s attention on the issue at hand – the needs and wellbeing of the child.

Most child visitation statutes make reference to the best interests of the child, and then provide a list of factors for the court to consider when applying the standard. These factors include each parent’s 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. Courts will also decide visitation in a way that avoids disrupting the child’s education and social support structure. The expressed desires of children themselves are relevant, but never determinative.

Establishing Visitation Rights

The first step toward obtaining a child visitation order will depend on whether the parties are already involved in a family law case. If so, the non-custodial parent can prepare a motion for visitation and file it in the existing case. As long as both parents agree that the request is appropriate, the process will be as simple as presenting a stipulated order to the judge for his or her signature. It is important to note that parents requesting visitation must begin paying child support, if they are not currently doing so.

If a case does not already exist, the parent seeking visitation must initiate one. When the parents are married, visitation can be requested as part of a suit for divorce or separation. Otherwise, the issue can be raised by filing a petition to determine custody and support. Fathers bringing these cases will be required to establish paternity and prove they are satisfying child support obligations before the court will consider the merits of the visitation request.

Modification of a Visitation Order

Modification of child visitation is one of the most heavily litigated issues in the field of family law. This is not surprising, as the living situation of the parties is sure to evolve between the time the original order is entered, and the time the child turns 18. The court will retain jurisdiction during this entire period. When a modification becomes necessary, either parent can make the request. Because child support is dependent upon the amount of time each parent has custody, requests to modify visitation and support are typically made at the same time.

While courts will always rely on the best interests of the child standard, requests to modify visitation are also governed by the “changed circumstances” standard of proof. That is, the parent filing the motion must prove that since the order or most recent modification was entered, circumstances have changed and the previous schedule is no longer suitable. Examples of changed circumstances include the relocation of either parent, failure of one parent to abide by the current schedule, requests by the child to spend more or less time with a parent, and so forth.

Situations Requiring an Attorney

Child visitation, like other family law matters, is greatly affected by the degree to which the parents cooperate. If you and the other parent cannot agree on visitation, an attorney can make sure the court considers your point of view, and does what is right for your child. Contact a child visitation lawyer to find out more.


Know Your Rights!

Articles About Child Visitation Law

  • What Is the Time Limitation for Taking a Child Out of the Country?
    Family law cases can often be emotionally straining. Sometimes, one parent is given primary custody at the objection of the other parent. The non-custodial parent may attempt to become the primary custodian by removing the child from the state or country, making it more difficult for the other parent to find him or her and to enforce the order.
  • Can I Challenge Final Decision Making Authority?
    In Georgia, a judge can designate or parents can decide on which parent will have final decision making authority. This authority extends to certain important aspects of the child’s life.
  • Child Custody After Common Law Marriages
    Common law marriage used to be much more widely accepted than it is today. Today, only a handful of states recognize common law marriage. But, in those states that do, what is the process for child custody when the spouses separate?
  • In a Breakup, Who Gets Custody of the Dog?
    For many couples, a dog is just like a child. So, when a breakup or divorce happens, it can signal the beginning of a battle over custody of the dog. What does the law say? Who gets custody of the dog? Will a court even hear such a case?
  • Pet Custody: The Battle For Fido Rages On
    One of the more amorphous concepts in the family law arena is the treatment of a pet subsequent to divorce.
  • Can I Get in Trouble for Not Returning to the United States with My Child from Florida?
    While parents are usually free to move around the country, into other territories owned by the United States and to other parts of the world, their ability to take their children with them may be inhibited. These rights may be restricted if the other parent or individual has a Florida court order pertaining to visitation or shared parenting time.
  • What Are the Questions I Need to Ask My Lawyer in a Child Custody Case?
    Child custody cases can be some of the most contentious. They can also be complex, and the way that they are decided varies from each state and region. To better prepare for a custody dispute, parents may retain the services of family law lawyers to help advise them of the process entailed in a child custody case.
  • Divorce & Parenting Arrangements
    Most parents experiencing a divorce tell me that their primary concern is their children’s best interests. And most of the time I believe them.
  • Public Opinion Of Child Support Laws
    A study released in June of 2015 found that people in England and the United States feel their respective child support laws are unfair.
  • Change of Circumstances or Good Cause Required to Revisit Custody Defined
    Divorce lawyer from Rochester, Michigan explains that a change of circumstances or good cause is required before the court may revisit custody
  • All Family Law Articles

    Articles written by attorneys and experts worldwide discussing legal aspects related to Family Law including: adoption, alimony, child support and custody, child visitation, collaborative law, divorce, domestic violence, elder law, juvenile crime, juvenile law, juvenile probation, paternity, pre-nuptial agreement, separation.

Child Visitation Law - US

  • ABA - Custody Committee

    The ABA studies and strives for improvements in the law relating to child custody and visitation, such as development of a model joint custody statute, standards for relocating children and rights of stepparents and unwed parents.

  • Child Support Enforcement Program

    The Child Support Enforcement Program is a joint federal, state and local partnership to ensure that parents provide support to their children.

  • Child Support, Child Custody and Child Visitation Information Center

    This section of the Divorce Law Information Center is designed to assist you with post-divorce actions such as child support modification, child support collection, visitation issues, and denial of visitation.

  • Children's Right's in Regards to Custody and Visitation

    The judicial system in each state considers numerous factors in arriving at a final and proper child custody arrangement. After reviewing all of these factors, the Wisconsin Supreme Court devised a guideline for a child's rights. These basic rights are upheld in all 50 states.

  • Grandparent Visitation Rights in the United States

    The concept of grandparents' rights is derived from three basic legal approaches. (It is important to note that grandparents' rights only give grandparents the right to file a petition to visit their grandchildren; they do not guarantee that grandparents will be heard before a court of law.)

  • Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act

    The purpose of the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act is to revise the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction Act to bring the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction Act into compliance with the Parental Kidnapping Prevention Act and other federal statutes such as the Violence Against Women Act, as well as to make those changes to the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction Act which are necessary as a consequence of inconsistent court interpretations.

Organizations For Child Visitation Law

  • Advocates for Grandparent Grandchild Connection

    Our non-profit organization is dedicated to reuniting grandparents and grandchildren who become separated due to a change in family circumstance.

  • American Coalition for Fathers and Children

    We, the members of the American Coalition for Fathers and Children, hereby dedicate ourselves and our efforts to the creation of a family law system, legislative system, and public awareness which promotes equal rights for ALL parties affected by divorce, and the breakup of a family or establishment of paternity. It is our belief through our involvement and dedication, we can have a positive effect on the emotional and psychological well-being of children.

  • Divorce Source - Child Custody and Visitation Articles

    This is a collection of articles and divorce law related information provided by some of the professionals who are members of our directory (lawyers, mediators, counselors, etc.). This section of the site is constantly growing with quality, up-to-date divorce information regarding laws, child custody, visitation, support and more.

  • Just 4 Dads - Father Visitation Rights

    Visitation rights are a myth. Neither parent is inherently entitled to visitation rights when going through a divorce. You only have visitation rights when they have been established by the court or determined in a parenting plan that is created by both parents and acknowledged in court. In your divorce proceedings, it is important to be aware that visitation and custody are two separate matters.


    SPARC's goal is to ensure that children of divorce continue to have meaningful relationships with both parents, regardless of marital status. We advocate on behalf all non-custodial parents to ensure they get equitable treatment in court and continued access to their children. In addition, we work to promote gender equality in Divorce and Custody issues.

  • Woman's Divorce - Child Visitation Rights

    Ask most divorced parents about child visitation rights, and you're likely to hear some discontent about the situation. The following answers from the life coach and legal expert may give you some insight to your own situation.

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