Child Visitation

Child visitation is the time that a party spends with the child when they don’t have physical custody of the child on a day to day basis. For example, in a typical scenario, one spouse or one party will be the custodial parent for the child. The noncustodial parent will have visitation pursuant to a schedule which is made a part of a judgment and entered into court.

Most commonly, we see visitation that consists of overnight stays every other weekend as well as alternating holidays. Many families also include a day or two of visitation during the week. However, visitation schedules can vary based on the needs of the child and the relationship that the parties have going forward. In many cases, we see extended periods of visitation with the minor child over holidays, summer vacations, Christmas vacations and birthdays and other events.

Since the noncustodial party has extensive visitation, that person wants to make sure that they can effectuate the visitation pursuant to a schedule. The parties have to coordinate the pickup, the drop-off and other arrangements to make visitation feasible. The noncustodial parties should also have access to the child in terms of telephone and Internet and e-mail when that party is not in their custody.

Visitation battles are typically over the duration of the visitation, the time of the visitation and the location of the visitation. In some cases, someone who has visitation rights decides for whatever reason not to exercise those rights. In other cases, a party is denied visitation rights even though he or she has those rights pursuant to court order.

Much post-decree litigation is over the issue of visitation. In some cases, a party is just not getting the visitation that they desire or are entitled to under court order. For some reason, the custodial party is withholding visitation for whatever reason. Sometimes there is a valid reason to withhold visitation. If the noncustodial party is a drinker and engages in illicit drugs and comes to the house or pickup place for visitation and appears to be intoxicated, then the custodial party has the right and duty actually not to turn over the child to that party.

The noncustodial parent or party then brings an issue before the court stating that they were denied visitation. The court has to sort out the details as to whether or not the denial of visitation was wrongful or rightful and attempt to resolve the issue of visitation between the parties. In other cases, you have a party that just does not exercise visitation and it causes harm to the child and to the family. In those cases, the custodial parent might deny visitation unless that visitation is pursuant to a schedule.

One of the things that we see on occasion is a parties desire to relocate out of the jurisdiction of the court. Moving outside the jurisdiction of the court is known as removal and it obviously affects the visitation schedule because visitation can no longer take place on the same basis as it did if one of the parties is outside the jurisdiction. Visitation can still occur, however, the schedule might change, the duration might change, there is expense of travel that might have to be allocated between the parties and other issues concerning visitation where there is removal. Consult with your attorney as to whether or not you feel you have the ability to move to a different location and whether or not you have the ability to alter the visitation schedule that was originally ordered in your judgment for dissolution or other judgment.