There is no denying that it can be very beneficial to a child to have a positive relationship with their parents. And just because both parents don’t live in the same home, doesn’t mean that children should have to miss out on quality time with one parent. However, in order for both parents to see the child regularly, they both have to work together to come up with a reasonable schedule and stick to it. But, if the custodial parent has suddenly decided that they are going to deny visitation to the other parent, that can hurt both the child and the parent. If your child’s other parent is making it difficult or impossible for you to see your kid, here is some advice to help you enforce visitation.
Always Have a Legally-binding Custody Arrangements
According to Counseling.org, every year, around 1.2 million couples go through a divorce. And around 10% of those divorces involve disagreements over custody.
Sometimes, when couples split up, they may try to come up with an informal custody plan that is handled outside of court and without any proper documentation. If you and your ex still have a relatively amicable relationship, this may seem like the quickest and easiest way to reach a custody agreement. However, it is important to note that any agreement that is made outside of court will not have a legal document that binds either parent to stick to the agreement. This means that at any time, the custodial parent can change the visitation agreement without consequences and without notice.
So, while reaching an agreement can be made between two parents in a private setting, it is highly recommended that your custody agreement is approved by a court. In many states, you can have a legally binding custody agreement without going to court. For example, many courts offer custody mediation services that allow you and the other parent to sit with a neutral third party to come up with a custody agreement. The agreement is still legally binding and does not require long, drawn-out court cases.
How Can I Enforce Visitation?
If you have a legally binding document that describes when you get to see your child, then their other parent must adhere to the schedule. They are not allowed to change the schedule whenever they see fit. The only way that the schedule can change is if one parent has the custody agreement revised and approved by the court. Without a new agreement, it is considered “visitation interference” when the custodial parent does not comply with the visitation schedule.
If your child’s other parent causes you to miss a few scheduled visitations, you should try and reschedule the visitation. If they refuse to schedule make-up dates, or they continue to deny your court-ordered visitation, then there are a few steps that you can take.
Here is a list of things that you should and should not do in order to enforce visitation:
DO TALK ABOUT THE PROBLEM.
Before you get too upset, you need to talk to the other parent and ask them why they are skipping scheduled visitation times. Sometimes, it is a misunderstanding or something else that can be easily fixed. It is a good idea to schedule a time to talk to them without your kids around. For example, if they are at daycare or school. This will prevent your child from overhearing the conversation. And will also allow you to talk with the other parent without interruption.
DO KEEP A JOURNAL.
You should document all of your concerns and everything that impacts your ability to enforce visitation. Keep a journal and write down each time your ex has refused to let you see your child. Be sure to write down the date that the denial occurred.
DO TRY TO COME TO AN AGREEMENT.
After you and your child’s other parent have both voiced your concerns, see what you can do to fix the issue. For example, if they feel that the child is unsafe at your house, find out why and then see if there is a way to fix it immediately. It may be something as simple as adding child-proof locks to the doors.
DO TALK TO YOUR ATTORNEY.
If you are having a difficult time trying to enforce visitation on your own, then you may need to talk to a family law attorney. Describe the situation to your lawyer. Your lawyer can write a letter to your ex explaining that they are interfering with a visitation order and the matter needs to be resolved soon. This will let your ex know that you are serious about wanting to enforce visitation. Your lawyer can also advise you if you should file a motion with the court to ask the court to issue a sanction against your ex, modify the visitation order, or enforce the current order.
DON’T LOSE YOUR TEMPER.
Having your ex violate the visitation agreement can be very frustrating. But it is important to stay calm when talking to your ex. Try not to raise your voice or use vulgar language. This will only make the situation worse.
DON’T RESORT TO EXTREME MEASURES.
When you finally do get to see your kid, you may feel like you have the right to keep your child for a longer period of time to make up for the time that you are “owed.” However, this should never be done without the approval of the courts as this could be viewed as kidnapping.
When to Get Legal Help in Order to Enforce Visitation
Child custody laws can be extremely complicated. If you have tried to resolve a custody dispute with your ex and are having a hard time coming to a resolution, your best choice would be to consult an attorney. An experienced family law attorney can help you navigate through this difficult time and give you advice on how to find a solution that is best for both you and your child.
Contact us today to schedule a call.