Can a Parent With Sole Custody Deny Visits?

By Stephanie Kurose, J.D.

Can a Parent With Sole Custody Deny Visits?

By Stephanie Kurose, J.D.

A parent with sole custody of a child cannot deny visits from the child's other parent unless it's first approved by a court. If you have sole custody of your child, it means you have both physical and legal custody. Physical custody means that the child lives with you full time. Legal custody means that you are the parent charged with making all important decisions regarding your child, and can do so without seeking the other parent's input. If you have sole custody and regularly deny visits from your child's other parent without court approval, the court has the authority to change custody status.

Little girl and mother sitting on the floor playing with toys

Visitation Rights

All states place a great deal of emphasis on the child's relationship with both parents and many believe the child should regularly see both parents. As a result, if you were awarded sole custody in divorce proceedings, the court order probably included a visitation schedule so the other parent can still spend time with your child.

Because the court order is a legal document, both you and your ex must abide by it. You are not allowed to deny or suspend visitation rights on your own. If you want to amend the visitation schedule, you must petition the court. Until then, you must allow your ex to see your child.

Exceptions to Visitation Rights

If your custody order does not include a visitation schedule, it most likely includes text along the lines of "Visitation is by agreement between the parties." This may be the case if you and your ex have an amicable relationship and want to reach an agreement on your own. If this is the case, you have a little more flexibility when it comes to a visitation schedule. For example, if your child has preexisting plans but your ex is demanding a visit, you do not have to cancel those plans.

However, if you're regularly refusing to let your ex see your child, your ex may be able to file a contempt action against you in court. A court has the discretion to change custody situations when one parent consistently denies, refuses, or interferes with a visitation agreement.

On the other hand, if you sincerely feel as though your child would be put in danger when left with your ex, you can deny a visitation—even if your court order does set a specific visitation schedule—on an isolated basis. For example, if your ex arrives to pick up your child and is clearly intoxicated, you do not have to let your child get in the car. In this case, document as much as you can so that you can present evidence to the court.

Modifying a Court Order

In the event you are having recurring problems with visitation, you can file a motion with the court asking a judge to address the situation. Courts will modify a custody order if there's good enough reasons.

However, when asking the court to deny visitation entirely, you must provide a well-documented case establishing why this would be in the child's best interest.

Child visitation issues can be complex and emotional, so consider enlisting the assistance of a professional.

This portion of the site is for informational purposes only. The content is not legal advice. The statements and opinions are the expression of author, not LegalZoom, and have not been evaluated by LegalZoom for accuracy, completeness, or changes in the law.

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