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To make a prudent decision on whether you need to consult and hire a visitation lawyer or not, you need to know what exact visitation rights one is entitled to and how to access those rights as effectively as possible.
This article covers the following topics:
What are Visitation Rights?
In a divorce, after the court has decided which parent would be awarded the custody of the child, the non-custodial parent gets visitation rights. Beyond parents, courts may also grant visitation rights to grandparents if required. On the other hand, the court may choose to withhold visitation rights. They may do so if they believe, that it is in the best interest of the child to not see the parent.
An important aspect to remember here is that although we use the word ‘right,’ child visitation rights are considered a privilege. It means that it is not automatically granted. One should also be clear about the difference between child support responsibilities and visitation rights. The non-custodial parent may still have to pay child support even if he/she does not have visitation rights. Paying for child support and having one’s visitation rights are separate subjects in the eyes of law.
The Salient Features
Whether you would require a visitation rights lawyer would depend largely upon who gets to decide the terms of visitation. The court may decide to pass orders on visitation rights if the parents fail to reach an agreement. If it is incumbent upon the court to decide the terms of visitation, it usually considers the wishes of the child, if age-appropriate. But, in many states, before it goes to the court, it is upon the parents to first reach an appropriate visitation or parenting agreement.
The agreement requires the parents to draft an agreement. It should include a reasonable visitation plan. The parents may draft the plan discretely. But the decision should be in the best interest of the children. The parents may negotiate the rights among themselves or may choose to include a third-party mediator. The role of the mediator is to facilitate the discussion. The aim is to reach a mutually agreed finality without having to go for a trial.
Even after all possible deliberations, the parents fail to conclude, the court has every right to intercede. Usually, the court drafts a schedule that both the parents need to abide by.
Establishing grandparent visitation rights is often more difficult. The grandparents may need to prove that their absence will inflict harm upon the child. The process can become challenging, both emotionally and legally. Since grandparent visitation rights are not meant to challenge parental authority, the process may require intense mediation.
One Parent Interfering With Other’s Visitation Rights
The court does not endorse or encourage an attempt by one of the parents to interfere with visitation. The courts always endorse the child to have a strong relationship with both the parents. Therefore, the courts always aim at awarding the custodial rights to that parent who is more likely than the other to foster a healthy relationship between the child and the non-custodial parent.
In case the court finds that the custodial parent regularly interferes with the non-custodial parent’s rights to visitation, the court may order a change of custody. One of the most frequent forms of interference with visitation rights happens when the custodial parent refuses to allow the children to visit the non-custodial parent as per the court-approved schedule.
The Guarantee of Visitation Rights
Both the custodial and the non-custodial parent should be clear on the fact, that the rights to visit are not guaranteed rights. The court may choose to suspend, deny, or restrict these rights. They may do so if it finds it to be in the best interest of the children. The court may allow supervised visitation if it sees the possibility of violence or physical endangerment of the child during visitation. The court may also decide to deny or suspend the rights if it feels that the parent may inflict emotional harm on the child or finds the parent suffering from mental illness, substance abuse, etc.
On the other hand, one must also remember that courts these days are less inclined to enforce visitation restrictions based on one parent’s non-marital heterosexual relationships or his/her incarceration.
By now, it is evident that child visitation includes lots of ifs and buts. It’s a privilege rather than a guaranteed right. One may be denied of or suspended from this privilege if the court feels it is in the best interest of the child. Therefore, you must represent yourself through an attorney in the court who specializes in the practice of visitation rights.
How Can a Child Visitation Rights Lawyer be of Help?
Having a professional visitation rights attorney increases your chance to win the arrangement you want. It also helps to make the process faster.
An experienced attorney helps to file paperwork that can be complicated. If not filed with the right people, at the right time, it may lead to delay or weakening of the case. These paper works may include pre-trial orders, child support worksheets, ex-parte temporary custody orders, etc.
The attorney also helps to collect, compile, and effectively present valid character references and witnesses. It helps the parent to win over custodial rights. The attorneys usually come with effective insights on the functioning of the judge. It can help pull the case in one’s favor. The parent’s attitude, behavior, and declarations in the courtroom may play an important role for the court to decide whether to grant custodial rights or not. An experienced attorney helps to develop an effective strategy on one’s approach and attitude during the hearing.
In case, one parent is spreading false information about the other parent, an attorney helps to gather expert witnesses and forensic evidence that play a crucial role in refuting the claim. The attorney also prepares a legally sound testimony for you. They also train you on how to respond to the judge’s queries in the best possible way.
It is not only difficult but risky as well to fight for the full physical custody of your child without your visitation rights lawyer representing you in the best possible right.