Visitation rights, sometimes called child access, are often a major issue in child custody cases. When a non-custodial parent has some level of custody, that parent is said to have visitation. Essentially, this means that the non-custodial parent has parenting time with their child. Whether that parenting time is overnight, unsupervised, or supervised, parents are generally entitled to have reasonable access to their children. A common misconception in child custody cases is that a child’s mother is allowed to decide when and where the father can have this important parenting time. The truth is that one party rarely dictates visitation schedules. Moreover, if a mother denied a father the parenting time to which he is entitled, she could face legal consequences.
Best Interests and Visitation
The custodial parent is the parent with whom the child primarily resides. The non-custodial parent almost always has some level of visitation with the child. Custodial and non-custodial parents can share custody in a variety of ways. Each may have some level of physical custody, that is, the face-to-face time spent with the child. Parents may also share legal custody, which is the legal authority to make major decisions for the child. Of course, the exact circumstances in any given case will determine how parents share both physical and legal custody.
No matter what your specific situation is, all custody and visitation decisions must be made in the best interests of your child. This best interests standard is a legal standard that requires judges to prioritize your child’s needs in the custody case. If you are requesting a certain visitation schedule, for example one that includes a set number of overnight stays, you must show the judge that schedule will not harm your child.
State law provides that non-custodial parents are entitled to “reasonable” visitation rights. These visitation rights cannot be denied unless a judge has found such visitation would seriously endanger the child after a formal hearing. Denying a parent all visitation rights is quite difficult, so most non-custodial parents do enjoy some level of parenting time with their child. In some cases, judges do require the non-custodial parent to undergo supervised visitation. Supervised visitation is as straightforward as it sounds; a non-custodial parent’s time with their child will be supervised by another a third party to ensure the child’s safety. A requirement of supervised visitation is not common, and will only occur in cases where the non-custodial parent presents a threat of serious endangerment to the child.
Once your visitation schedule is determined, either through court order or private agreement, you may be concerned that the custodial parent will still deny you access. If the custodial parent willfully and unjustifiably denies your visitation rights, they have committed visitation abuse as established under state law. In such a case, you ask the court to enforce your rights for parenting time. If the problem continues, you may even be allowed to ask the court to modify custody arrangements.
Our Wheaton and DuPage County Custody Lawyers Can Help
Our lawyers at Fay, Farrow & Associates, P.C. understand the legal and emotional complexities common in child custody cases. We are dedicated to providing each client with effective legal assistance tailored to their needs. If you are concerned about protecting your custodial rights, contact us today to speak with an experienced Wheaton family law attorney.