Ending a marriage relationship can be stressful enough, but what happens to the children?. When kids are involved, it is even more challenging. When a family is together, parents have constant access and direction of their children. However, in a divorce, parents may have to share split responsibility and time with the children through a court visitation order. In this arrangement, an uncooperative parent can make things frustrating and confusing. The issue could escalate into conflict, all at the expense of the child.
Despite visitation orders being obligatory by a judge, often overzealous parents find ways around them. Sometimes parents are more flexible in certain situations, but the court decides a particular schedule that is most beneficial to wellbeing and growth of the children. Ignoring it for too long may be detrimental to the physical, emotional, psychological, and academic needs of your child. In fact, refusing to obey a visitation order may result in a parental kidnapping charge.
You can avoid these situations by having a strong legal team to push for fair visitation rights that a court can consistently enforce. You deserve to play an active role in your child’s life through a clear visitation schedule. Speak to our child visitation attorney, Alicia Lucero, for a free consultation today.
Legal Definition of Visitation
Divorced parents may retain some rights and privileges to their children. Visitation determines the level of contact a parent may have with their child.
What Does Visitation Rights Mean?
Constitution protects parents’ rights to love and to guide their children. Both biological parents are the presumed natural custodians of their children under Maryland law. When ruling on child custody and visitation, Maryland law does not favor either mother or father. The law looks at the best interest of the child to determine what the safest and most beneficial environment for them. The court bases this “best interest” on many individual factors. Unless evidence proves otherwise, a court must presume that parents will act in child’s best interest.
In general, courts will usually take into account several questions, including:
- Before fighting for their visitation right, how long has the non-custodial parent waited?
- What are the living conditions of the non-custodial parent?
- In the past, did the non-custodial parent spend the time with the child?
- Has the child ever stay overnight with a parent?
- Is there any history of abuse from the requesting parent?
- What is the geographical location of the non-custodial parent?
- Has the non-custodial parent paid child support?
- Is non-custodial parent employed?
- Is non-custodial parent remarried?
Court Ordered Visitation Rights Process
The court will encourage divorced parents to work together to determine a reasonable schedule for sharing time with their children. Though it’s not required, you should request the court make the schedule legally binding to ensure fairness and both parties comply. The judge will hear the arguments from your lawyers and determine a final say based on the best interest of the children. Every case will be unique, though may be affected by issues like health and living conditions of the requesting parent, their work schedule, and parenting style. All those factors a judge will weigh against the parenting goals and conditions of the parent with custody rights. For example, if the parent with custody wishes to raise the child Catholic, the requesting visitation parent cannot interfere.
Who can Receive Visitation Rights?
Typically the biological parents are given the preference in visitation rights, but in cases of abuse or hardship, the judge may consider grandparents and other extended family members. Any family member may petition the court for visitation rights, though they should present a strong case for the best interest of the child’s well being.
When can Visitation Rights be Denied?
If the conditions of a home change, the custody parent may request a judge to alter the agreement of visitation rights of the other parent/guardian. For example, it may be appropriate to review visitation rights if one parent lost their job, remarried, or moved. If the new environment posed a risk to the child’s wellbeing or creates a situation that would contradict the custody parent’s goals, the judge may lessen or revoke visitation rights.
Typically, the court will withhold visitation temporarily until the parent meets specific criteria, such as finding employment again, becoming sober, or renovating unsafe living conditions.
Failing to follow your court ordered visitation schedule, by keeping the child longer than specified, can result in a contempt charge or even an abduction felony. If the custody parent refuses to release the child for the visitation schedule, you should contact your lawyer to press the court to enforce the agreement.
By Maryland state law, the court may not withhold visitation rights solely because a parent has late child support payments. And, if the state has denied visitation, that can not be used as an excuse to refuse payments.
The state does not usually grant unsupervised visitation rights to any 1st or 2nd-degree murder convict.
Child Visitation Schedule
The practical schedule of visitations will likely center around the child’s school and sports functions, holidays, and the parents’ transportation ability. You should outline all of these issues in a detailed and logical way in your written visitation agreement. Take the time to negotiate and plan out every calendar day and scenario before going before the judge. If you cannot agree on certain days, the court may provide a mediator to counsel you both through the decision making process.
If you choose not show up for visits, you shouldn’t face any penalties. You can otherwise informally agree to changes in your visitation schedule as unforeseen situations arise, like if one parent gets sick. If changes become too frequent or significant, you should go to the court to make them official so they can become legally enforceable. In most cases, if one parent has full custody, they will have more significant influence on the outcome of the schedule.
Supervised Visitation and Monitored Exchanges
In certain situations, the courts may deem it appropriate a parent only interact with their child at a predetermined location under close state supervision. A judge may order this to protect the child from danger from the requesting parent, to prevent conflict between parents, or in unique tense circumstances. Usually, these interactions are at neutral locations, like a park or arcade.
To further prevent conflict, the judge may order “monitored exchanges”, meaning drop-off and pick-up times are staggered such that parents do not have a chance to meet.
Alicia Lucero: Fighting to Secure Your Visitation Rights
As a child develops, it’s essential they have adequate attention from both mom and dad, despite the tension from divorce. At Bours & Lucero, LLC, we understand that every parent wants to give their best for their child. Unfortunately, divorcing parents often use children as tools for manipulation and bargaining chips to get their way. We are here to help you through the painful emotions and fight for the best interest of your child. Our visitation lawyer team offers a free consultation, no matter the situation. Do not hesitate. Contact us today.