Access Denied: When Can You Refuse Visitation?
Any time a marriage comes to an end, it's a difficult transition, particularly so with children involved. Not only are you having to work through the changes in your life, but you also have to help your child adjust and ensure that you provide a safe environment for him or her. Although most courts aim to preserve the rights of both parents in terms of visitation and access to the children, that isn't always in a child's best interest. Sometimes, as the custodial parent, you see things that the courts might not. Here are a few instances when you might be able to legally refuse visitation and examples of times when you cannot.
When Your Child Refuses
In the aftermath of a divorce, kids can be overwhelmed and emotional. If your child is refusing to visit your ex, you need to determine if that refusal is simply an effort to have some say in a seemingly uncontrollable situation or if there's something more going on.
Talk with your child about the reasons why he or she is refusing to go. It may be that your ex's living environment is uncomfortable, unsafe or otherwise concerning. If there's something going on that is inappropriate or that makes your child feel uncomfortable, you might be able to deny your ex visitation.
If your child is insistent that he or she doesn't want to go, document the situation clearly and be open with your ex about it. Communication needs to be as clear as possible. Keep documentation of your ex's response as well as your child's emotions. Then, call your attorney at a place like Thomas & Associates, PC to see if there are any options for changing the visitation order.
When You Suspect Abuse
If you have any indication at all that there's some form of abuse occurring in your ex's home during visitation or your ex has a history of abuse, this may be grounds to refuse visitation while you take the case to court. Make sure that you back up the claims with a legal report to your local law enforcement agency so that it launches an investigation. Whether you suspect your ex or perhaps a new significant other of being at fault, you need to get it on record.
When You Suspect Imminent Risk
If you don't have any solid evidence of abuse but you suspect any kind of hazard or danger to your child by leaving him or her with your ex, you may be able to refuse visitation. This type of situation can be as simple as having your ex arrive to pick the kids up intoxicated or as severe as him or her arriving in a rage and making obvious threats or being aggressive. No matter what the situation, if you refuse visitation due to a safety threat, you should call law enforcement immediately to document the situation.
What Reasons are Not Acceptable?
Although you might be able to legally refuse visitation in these situations, there are other situations where it is not permissible to refuse your ex access to your child. Many parents believe that they can refuse visitation if their former spouse is behind on child support. In fact, the right to visitation is not dependent on the payment of child support. The two are unrelated as far as the court system is concerned, so you cannot withhold visitation simply because of a failure to pay child support.
You also cannot refuse your former spouse's visitation simply because you do not care for his or her new love interest. If you have a legitimate reason for concern, such as evidence of inappropriate behavior, that may be different, but you can't refuse visitation simply because you don't like the individual.
In order to reduce your risk of visitation and custody issues throughout the divorce is to establish a clear visitation schedule and behavioral expectations from the start. Make sure that all of the legal expectations are clear for both you and your ex, and you'll have better documentation to support a claim later if there are any issues.