Child Visitation

Get the best custody and visitation agreement for your children and strong advocacy before a judge if no resolution is reached

There was a time when a judge’s default decision was to give mothers custody of their children and permit a father only visitation rights. This is no longer the case.

You can now ask for custody or visitation even if you were never married to the other parent, regardless of your gender. While parents may enter into custody and visitation agreements on their own, judges and mediators are often needed.

What do Judges Look for When Granting Visitation Rights?

Judges and mediators try to find a plan that is best for the children, irrespective of what each parent might prefer. When trying to figure out what’s best for the children, judges look at how flexible and willing each parent is in putting the children’s interests above their own.

The prevailing view is that children need both parents, and the parent most likely to get custody or generous visitation in many cases is the one who is able to encourage the children in their relationship with the other parent. Accordingly, it is important to support your children to visit their other parent to bar a serious issue like domestic violence or abuse. Ideally, neither you nor your former partner should badmouth the other, or his or her partner.

Among other things, a judge will also consider the health, safety and welfare of the child, any history of abuse against a parent or child, and the nature and amount of contact with both parents.

How Best to Approach Visitation With Your Children?

If your spouse or ex-spouse has physical custody of the children, make sure you're on time to pick up your child and keep every one of your scheduled visits. If you use corporal punishment on your child, or if you have in the past, it may be best to stop using this form of discipline.

Sometimes judges order “supervised visitation.” This means children may visit with a parent only if there is a neutral third party present. Some reasons for supervised visitation include these situations:

  • A parent and child learning about each other after there has been an absence or no previous relationship;
  • Allegations of substance abuse, child abuse, or domestic violence;
  • A parent who has a mental illness, or has threatened to abduct the child.

How is Visitation Enforced?

The police and other law enforcement officers can help enforce your visitation rights, so long as you have a certified copy of the judge’s order. The person violating a visitation order can be found in contempt of court. If a custody or visitation agreement is not working, a family law attorney can help you ask the court for a modification. For example, if circumstances warrant increased visitation, which your former spouse does not want, you may be able to return to the judge and request a change.

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