Visitation is the aspect of a custody agreement that sets regulations on how a non-custodial parent is given time to interact with a child. Visitation comes into play when one of the parents receives either primary or shared custody of a child. A custody agreement may set forth one parent who retains physical custody of the child for a majority of the time, and then allow for the non-custodial parent to engage in visitation for a set period of time. Visitation itself can come in two forms: supervised visitation and unsupervised visitation. The type of visitation for each case depends on the circumstances of the case itself. Visitation is rarely, if ever, outright denied. Instead the court simply takes stricter stances on how the visitation may be conducted. Visitation is granted based upon what is in the best interest of the child.
Supervised visitation is a broad term for visitation that is overseen or "supervised" by a party specified in the custody agreement. The supervising party can either be designated by the court, or agreed upon by both parents. The supervisor will act as a sort of chaperone for the child during the visitation period. During supervised visitation, the chaperone will be present with the non-custodial parent to ensure that they do not engage in behavior that could jeopardize the child. In certain cases, particularly cases where there is a risk that the safety of the child may be jeopardized, the court will designate supervised visitation at a specific visitation center. This means that the parent seeking visitation must go to a location, where their visit with the child will be supervised by the court and security professionals. Visitation center supervised visits are typically only utilized in cases of abuse or where the non-custodial parent has a risk of fleeing with the child.
Unsupervised visitation is the more common form of visitation arrangements worked out through a custody agreement. The non-custodial parent will have unsupervised access to a child, and they are free to do as they please with the child, provided that they do not violate the custody agreement in any way. If the court does not believe the other parent to be a threat to the child, they will likely allow for unsupervised visitation. However, if a custody agreement initially offers unsupervised visitation, modifications may change that if the court finds that one of the parents has done something to either violate the agreement or the law itself.
Enforcement and Violations
Enforcing visitation and custody agreements is done through the courts. One particularly obvious reason to uphold a custody agreement is that if a parent is found to be in violation of the agreement, modifications that reduce the parent's time with the child will likely ensue. This may result in reduced visitation time, supervised visitation, and possibly even supervised visitation at a visitation center. It is rare that the court will revoke visitation rights altogether, however, violations can carry negative consequences outside of the agreement. Violators may face criminal charges, which can result in jail time, hefty fines, or both.
In most cases, if a parent does not return the child to the primary or scheduled custodial parent at the designated time, they will proceed to the court. The first step for these parents is to demand the return of the child from the other parent. The other parent then has 48 hours to return the child. If the child is not returned within this window, the parent will likely face criminal charges. The charges vary in severity, depending on how long the child is withheld from the authorities and the other parent, and whether or not the child was brought past the boundaries of the state.
Visitation can be a difficult and emotional issue for parents. Both parties only want what they believe is best for their child. While most custody agreements allow for visitation, they may not always present schedules that are convenient or desirable. For this reason, it is important to go into a custody discussion armed with the counsel of an attorney. An attorney will be able to protect both you and your child's interests in the situation. If you or a loved one is engaged in a custody battle, or other matters of Family Law, contact attorney Joseph D. Lento today.