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
- Pennsylvania Divorce Proceedings with Visitation RightsWhen one spouse divorces the other in Pennsylvania, it is important to know what visitation rights are available to the parent without primary or full custody of affected children. Often the father is the one seeking visitation to see his kids and knowing what his rights in these matters and may provide him with the means to engage in parental activities.
- Texas Child Support Modification and Enforcement: Answers to FAQsIn Texas, there are strict limits on when parents can petition for a modification of child support. There are also strict penalties for violating child support orders. Learn what you need to know if you cannot meet your child support obligations or if your former spouse is refusing to pay.
- USFSPA: Uniformed Services Former Spouse Protection ActThe intention of Congress in 1982 in creating the USFSPA was to ensure that former spouses of military members receive financial protection after the marriage is over. This Act could protect the former spouse through divisions in military retirement pay in becoming marital property when the couple dissolve the relationship.
- Legal Options for Child Custody in CaliforniaChild custody is often disputes in divorce cases in California. It is common for each parent to believe that the children would be better off with them. Parents have the ability to work out an agreement related to child custody without having to have the judge make important decisions regarding child custody. However, if parents cannot reach an agreement, they may have to litigate the matter.
- Does My Civilian Spouse Automatically Get Full Custody?Before the divorce becomes final, it is important for a parenting plan’s creation to occur between the two parties for the time and educational purposes of any child or children affected by the separation of parents. When the military spouse faces deployment, the child may need to remain with the non-military parent even if he or she does not have custody.
- New York Family Law Cases: Custody and VisitationFamilies in New York face custody battles and considerations with visitation for the other parent due to divorce and separation with spouses. The best interests of the child are important and what are sought in these situations so that he or she has a loving and nurturing environment with visitation from the parent without primary custody.
- Custody Battles and Family Law in CaliforniaFighting for the right to raise a child in California occurs frequently due to the divorce rate throughout the state and the country. However, obtain joint or primary custody and enduring visitation rights becomes complicated if the courts are also part of the process between the divorced spouses and the children.
- Modifying Parenting Plans Years after a DivorceParenting plans setup through the courts by judgment may change depending on certain factors when both ex-spouses are willing to alter previous plans. The timeframe to make these changes may depend on the state, and any other factors usually greatly involve both parents that ensure the upbringing of the child is taken care of in these situations.
- Physical versus Legal Custody in New York StateNew York recognizes two types of custody: legal and physical. Either or both types of custody may be sole or joint in nature. Additionally, more courts are recognizing the parents’ ability to negotiate their own terms and parenting plans so that the legal designations are not as stringent as they were years ago.
- Who Gets the Family Pet in New York Divorce Cases?It is common in divorce cases for spouses not to agree on how to divide their property. They may also disagree as to which party should have custody of their children. Family pets are another point of contention in these families, and the parties may have very strong feelings about who should get the family pet.
- 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.