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.

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Articles About Child Visitation Law

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    Children are the most delicate and emotionally charged element of a divorce. As such, many couples can struggle to hash out all of the issues regarding this matter and come to a compromise through the mediation process. Leaving them with no choice but to appear in front of a judge in search of a child custody order.
  • What Can I Do if My Spouse Is Not Paying Child Support?
    States are responsible for establishing laws surrounding the award, collection and enforcement of child support. Parents often contest child support matters, believing that the other parent is being unfair. There are several enforcement mechanisms that can be imposed when a parent does not pay child support.
  • Can a Parent Have Joint Custody and Still Be Required to Pay Child Support?
    Courts generally treat custody decisions and child support as two completely different considerations. For this reason and others, a parent who has joint custody may still be required to pay child support.
  • Children’s Passports
    Who gets to hold my child’s passport when not traveling? Children’s PassportsThe Department of Homeland Security and the State Department have instituted certain policies and procedures for single parents travelling internationally with a child.
  • Child Support: Financial Resources Considered Income
    When a couple divorces and there are children involved, determining child support is one of the most important issues that the couple must address.
  • Divorce Papers Via Facebook
    Courts across the United States are increasingly allowing divorce papers (and other legal papers) to be served through social media sites.
  • Two Types of Alimony in Maryland
    In the state of Maryland, married couples have a financial responsibility to each other. The law says that one spouse has to support the other financially and vice versa.
  • Maternal Custody Laws in New Jersey
    New Jersey has adopted the Uniform Child Custody Act that was founded in 1979. The Uniform Child Custody Act helps prevent inner-state custody disputes.
  • Falling on Your Sword: Better Known as the Uncontested Divorce
    When things go bad in a marriage and divorce seems to be the only option, many people want to make it happen as fast as possible. In the heat of the moment they agree to things that may not be fair to them or demand unfair concessions from their partner. The future, with all of it's possibilities and uncertainty, is not thought of in the rush to push the divorce through as quickly and cheaply as possible as an uncontested divorce.
  • How a Private Investigator Can Prove Infidelity in a Divorce Case
    If a spouse suspects his or her partner of cheating, a private investigator may be hired to help confirm this information.
  • 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, 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.)

  • Office of Child Support Enforcement

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

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • Separated Parenting Access & Resource Center - SPARC

    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.

Publications For Child Visitation Law

  • 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.

  • 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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