Can a Parent With Sole Custody Deny Visits?

By Beverly Bird

If you have sole custody, you probably have a court order that awards you both legal custody and physical custody. Physical custody means that your child lives with you. Legal custody means you make all important decisions regarding your child without input from his other parent. Because all states believe a child should enjoy regular contact with both parents, the court order giving you sole custody probably specifies visitation times between your child and your ex. If so, you can’t suspend that visitation on your own. Only the court can deny visitation.

If you have sole custody, you probably have a court order that awards you both legal custody and physical custody. Physical custody means that your child lives with you. Legal custody means you make all important decisions regarding your child without input from his other parent. Because all states believe a child should enjoy regular contact with both parents, the court order giving you sole custody probably specifies visitation times between your child and your ex. If so, you can’t suspend that visitation on your own. Only the court can deny visitation.

Exceptions

If your custody order does not include language setting a specific visitation schedule, it probably says something such as, “Visitation is by agreement between the parties.” If your order reads this way, you have a little flexibility. You don’t have to cancel pre-existing plans or interrupt your child’s scheduled events, such as a baseball game, if his other parent demands to see him on a moment's notice. However, if you refuse to let your child see his other parent on a regular basis, your ex can file a contempt action against you in court. Courts will sometimes change custody when one parent consistently denies, refuses or interferes with visitation.

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Emergencies

Even if your court order does set a specific visitation routine, you don’t have to let your child go with his other parent if you honestly feel it would endanger him. For example, if his other parent arrives to pick him up and he is obviously intoxicated, you would not want your child to get in a car with him. You can deny visitation on an isolated basis for such reasons, but you should document these events as much as possible. Call the police and create a record of the incident. Protect yourself in case your ex decides to accuse you of interfering with custody for no reason.

Court Intervention

If you’re having repeated problems with visitation, you have the right to file a motion with the court, asking a judge to address the situation. Courts will modify a custody order when warranted; you’re not necessarily at the mercy of the one you’ve got until your child reaches the age of majority. However, if you’re going to ask the court to deny your ex visitation entirely, you’ll need a very good, very well-documented reason. One or two incidents will probably not be enough to change your custody order, but repeated problems of the same nature might be. Your ex’s behavior would also have to be pretty severe for a court to curtail his right to see his child entirely. This usually means that he must have endangered your child in some way, not just that he’s a bad or irresponsible parent.

Restricted Visitation

Although courts are unlikely to deny visitation completely except under extreme circumstances, this doesn’t mean judges are willing to place a child in an iffy, potentially dangerous or distressing situation over and over again. Courts sometimes award supervised visitation, where a responsible third party must always be present during the times when your child is with his other parent. A judge might also restrict visitation to daytime hours only. If you’re having real problems with visitation, speak with an attorney to find out if these options might work for you, or if your situation is so severe that you have a chance of getting visitation stopped entirely.

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Grounds for Denying Visitation Rights

References

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Information About Visitation Rights

When you and your spouse divorce, it's unlikely that your child is going to live with either of you 24/7. The best scenario is that you'll have joint physical custody and your child will divide her time close to equally between your homes. Otherwise, she'll live with one of you full-time and the other parent will have visitation rights. Often, when parents separate and one continues to live in the marital home, custody will remain with her after the divorce to maintain consistency in the child's life. Courts generally award the other parent frequent, meaningful or reasonable visitation, but these terms can be vague and leave noncustodial parents confused.

How to Enforce a Court Order for Visitation in Indiana

Indiana family courts were established to protect children and their families. A child's interests are protected, in part, by ensuring visitation with their non-custodial parent. Unfortunately, some custodial parents repeatedly deny visitation, even when a court has determined visitation is in the child's best interests. To enforce your visitation rights, you will need to document the denied visitation and file a petition for contempt.

Can Family Court Force a Mother to Give Up Her Parental Rights & Also Her Visitation Rights?

When you divorce, the court will determine how custody of your children is split between you and your spouse, and the court has authority to remove all parental rights from either parent under provisions in your state’s laws. Generally, the court’s decisions are based on the best interests of your child, which usually involve giving the child a chance to form bonds with both parents.

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