Everything You Need to Know About Child Visitation Law

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When it comes to family law, the cornerstone is all about finding what’s best for the kids. Therefore it’s important that you know child visitation law,  whether you’re the custodial parent or not. One mishap, and that can cause issues not only legally, but emotionally—especially for your child.

Child Visitation Law Regulates the Right of Non-Custodial Parents to Spend Time With Their Children

Certain measures are taken to ensure those rights are upheld in a court of law. You’ll find state courts as part of this process in dealing with issues like divorce, separation, alimony, child support and child custody. More important, here’s when the courts do need to step in: when parties can’t agree on a visitation schedule.

Mediation occurs, then the courts decide a suitable schedule with the child’s best interest in mind. “What’s best for the child?” is the mantra, the code, of the courts in regards to child visitation.

Some cases may occur where situations change that would require a modification of parenting time—such as moving to another state, or a different job requiring a change in hours. The point of establishing a rule of law is to ensure that parents can come to a compromise or decision that relies on the main focal point: their children.

An Explanation of the “Best Interests of the Child” Standard

Parenting time isn’t necessarily about fairness or balance. This doesn’t mean that a child can have equal time with both parents, except if it’s conducive to the particular situation. This happens when parents generally agree on a more mutually balanced relationship. Rather when expressing the best interests of the child, it’s typically used in reference to a child’s physical, emotional and developmental wellbeing.

This standard can be attributed to several factors:

  • The emotional ties of each parent
  • Financial support of each parent
  • The home environment of each parent

Given all those factors and a review and determination of the case at hand, a court can then decide specifically the best course of action in regards to child visitation.

Examples to consider would be when one parent doesn’t have a suitable home environment; the court could rule for visitation in a public venue, and not in the home or any other areas the non-custodial parent would deem necessary or available. Other issues may also come up, such as distance and schooling.

There have been numerous permutations of how child visitation works out in any given situation: sharing of holidays, sharing summer vacations, switching schools regularly. This all does, however, depend on whether or not parents can agree on whatever stipulations are facing them in regards to the children. If they’re fine with sharing children over a summer vacation, typically the courts won’t see an issue with that. The best way to manage child visitation law is for parents to be as amicable as possible regarding it, because this ultimately benefits the children the most.

How Child Visitation Law Establishes the Rights in the Right Way

There are steps in the process, starting with a child visitation order. Typically the non-custodial parent prepares the motion for visitation to be addressed by the courts. As long as the custodial parent agrees, the process is as linear and simple as the attorney—or even just the non-custodial parent—presenting the order to the judge for the appropriate signature to make it official.

It is then important that both parents abide by that order down to the letter. Any non-custodial parent requesting parenting time must begin paying child support if not already making such payments to the Friend of the Court.

In the situation where there isn’t any present case or docket number, the non-custodial parent must then file for the petition to determine custody and support. This typically happens when divorce or separation becomes apparent. Oftentimes if the non-custodial parent is the father, a paternity test would be required to prove that they are indeed the biological parent requesting parenting time.

How Can I Modify Visitation Orders?

The same process ensues in this case, administered by either parent. Familial situations can change after the initial visitation order is made. When a visitation order modification is requested, usually a support order is also requested. This is because the amount determined relies on the amount of time each parent has physical custody of the child.

More importantly, it’s clear to understand that if a parent were to request a modification of child visitation, the courts mandate that a “changed circumstances” standard of proof must be stipulated. It simply means that either parent must provide proof that the current order will no longer work given the circumstances. This could apply to relocation of either parent, or a new job that would prevent a parent from seeing the child at the ordered time. As long as the proof is available, modification can be allowed provided parties agree. If parties don’t agree, it goes to court for further deliberation, and the courts decide.

This can even apply to the fact that a parent can be in violation of a child visitation order by not abiding by it. It’s grounds for modifications if the opposing parent wishes to request such a change. Again, though, courts require proof, or evidence, of the fact; and then a new order can be issued that would require both parties to follow.

Seek Legal Advice From an Attorney for Child Visitation Rights

Child visitation law tends to work quite smoothly when both parents comply and agree on the terms without intervention from the courts. If they don’t—which is quite often in many cases—attorneys may be necessary to let the law work on behalf of the children. If you have more questions, of course, consult a family law attorney today.