Grounds for Denying Visitation Rights

By River Braun, J.D.

Grounds for Denying Visitation Rights

By River Braun, J.D.

It's widely accepted that a child thrives when both parents take an active role in the child's life. There are exceptions, but most judges begin custody and visitation hearings with this presumption. Either parent may present evidence to the court asserting that it's not in the child's best interest for a parent to have visitation rights. After considering the evidence presented in court, a judge may determine one of three outcomes: insufficient evidence to deny visitation, visitation should be limited/monitored, or visitation should be denied.

Woman cuddling with her young son

When a Custodial Parent Can Deny Visitation

If a court enters an order granting visitation rights to the other parent during a divorce proceeding or otherwise, the custodial parent is violating the order if he or she denies visitation with the child. Failure to pay child support is a common reason a parent may deny visitation with the other parent. However, child support and child visitation are two separate matters. The court could sanction a parent who withholds visitation because the other parent is behind in child support payments.

A parent who believes a child is in danger or is being harmed during visitation should contact an attorney immediately. If the child is in immediate harm, the parent can contact the police. In these situations, an emergency hearing can be held so a judge may hear evidence and suspend visitation until the matter is thoroughly investigated.

Unless a parent is bringing false allegations to suspend visitation, the court will not hold the custodial parent in contempt for denying visitation until a hearing is held. However, the parent should work with an attorney or local authorities instead of attempting to handle the matter alone.

Why Visitation Rights May be Suspended or Modified

Either parent may file a petition with the court to modify or suspend visitation rights based on a variety of circumstances. In most cases, the court requires that the party demonstrate a substantial change in circumstances that justifies modifying or suspending visitation.

Visitation rights may be denied for the same reasons they would be modified or suspended. Custody laws require that judges consider the best interests of the child when ruling on custody and visitation matters. Most states have enacted laws or have specific case law that lists the factors used in determining the best interest of the child. However, most states also allow judges to consider other relevant information that is necessary to determine the child's best interest.

A parent's visitation rights may be denied or suspended if a judge determines visitation with the parent is not in the child's best interest. Examples of circumstances that often result in a temporary or permanent denial of visitation rights include:

  • Physical harm or domestic violence
  • Sexual abuse
  • Child abduction
  • Substance abuse, especially abuse of illegal substances
  • Incarceration of a parent
  • Neglect and emotional abuse
  • Dangerous and hazardous living conditions
  • Refusal to coparent or intentional interference and cause of harm to the child's relationship with the other parent
  • Allowing children to miss school excessively during visitations
  • Exposing children to dangerous situations or individuals
  • Violation of prior court orders

Circumstances that place the child in harm or could cause harm to the child may be considered sufficient grounds to deny parental visitation. However, in some cases, a judge may grant supervised visitation. With supervised visitation, the child is permitted to continue a relationship with the parent, but the parent's contact with the child is monitored so the child is not harmed or placed in a situation in which harm might occur.

If you believe visitation with your child's other parent is harmful to your child, you can work with the court to protect your child. Your local department for family and children's services can help you take steps to protect your child if you do not know where else to turn. If you believe your child is in imminent danger, consider contacting your local law enforcement agency for immediate assistance.

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.