When a child is born, both parents have an equal right to care for and participate in the upbringing of that child. However, when the parents separate, one parent, the primary caretaker, generally has exclusive right to designate the primary residence of the child and the other parent has the right to possession of the child, also known as visitation.
One of the most common issues that a parent has to deal with is being denied their right to visit with their child. The primary care-taking parent often has several excuses to justify the denied visits. Regardless of the reason for denying visitation, absent extreme circumstances, a parent should never be prevented from seeing their child.
Having your visitation periods blocked by the other parent can be very frustrating and sadly, most parents feel that they have to settle for this type of behavior. If you are in this situation, I encourage you to seek court intervention immediately. The longer you take to address this situation; the more time you are spending away from your child. This article will address what to do when the other parent refuses to let you see your child.
Step 1: Act. If you already have a court order for your child, please proceed to Step 2.
If you do not have a current court order in place that outlines your rights and obligations to your child, please obtain one immediately. The court order will specify the custody rights that each parent has with respect to the child. Specifically, the order will state the visitation periods that the non-custodial parent is entitled to.
For example, generally, the Standard Possession Order grants the non-custodial parent the right to visit with the child on the 1st, 3rd, and 5th weekend of every month. Additionally, holidays and birthdays are also accounted for in this order.
There are many advantages of having a court order in place for your child. First, it prevents the custodial parent from having the power to choose when he or she wants you to see the child. Second, it helps to establish a consistent visitation schedule that both you and your child can look forward to. Third, without a court order in place, the court can never punish the denying parent for violating a non-existent court order.
Step 2: Record. Once you have a court order in place, be sure to record and keep a journal of the dates and times that you were denied your visitation periods with your child. This paper trail will be vital and useful in assisting you and your attorney with Step 3 below.
Remember, absent a mutual agreement with you and the other parent, you MUST exercise your visitation periods in the manner stated in the court order. For example, if the order states that you are to pick up the child from the other parent’s home on the 1st, 3rd, and 5th weekend of every month, at 6 p.m., then you need to comply with the court order. When you show up at the other parent’s house at the designated time period, and the child is not released to you, document this incident in your journal.
If your exchange location is at a restaurant or gas station, go inside the establishment and make a small purchase and keep your receipt. The receipt will show that you were at the exchange location ready to pick your child up as ordered by the court.
Additionally, don’t be afraid to call or send the other parent a text message stating that you are there to pick up the child. It will be hard for the other parent to explain to a judge why they didn’t show up to exchange the child knowing that you were there to pick the child up.
Step 3: Enforce. Once it is established that the other parent is violating the court order by denying you your visitation periods, you need to file an enforcement action for possession and access against the other parent. This will be your opportunity to reference each time and date that you have been keeping track of in your journal.
There are several consequences for violating a court order: contempt of court, fines, jail-time, and or probation. You are free to request either of these ramifications from the court when you file your enforcement action.
A hearing will be held on your enforcement action and at the conclusion of the hearing, the court will decide what is the appropriate sanction for the non-compliant parent.
Remember, the court cannot enforce what they do not know about. It is up to you to bring it to the court’s attention that you are being denied your visits with your child. You owe it to yourself and to your child to hold the violating parent accountable for their actions.
If you sit back and allow the other parent to continue violating the court order, you are only empowering them to continue behaving this way. Take the power back that you have as a parent and fight for your visitation rights with your child.
The Quander Law Firm believes in advocating for the mothers and fathers who want to be in their child’s life, yet are being denied the opportunity to do so. If you need help obtaining a court order for your child or enforcing an order, please contact us at (832) 930-7139 for an initial consultation.