Visitation gives a legal parent or relative custody of a minor during specific times. The court has broad discretion in granting, modifying and revoking visitation rights of legal parents and relatives; and its primary concern is the best interest of the child. Essentially, that means the court concerns itself with the child’s mental and physical welfare when making any decision regarding visitation. A judge will consider whether any decision he makes will disrupt the child’s social and educational support system. The judge will also factor whether the visitation rights he grants will compromise a safe and nurturing environment for the child. If it does, it is highly unlikely that the court will grant visitation.
Legal Parents’ Visitation Rights
After a divorce, separation, or a permanent separation between cohabiting parents, the residential parent—the person the minor lives with for a majority of the time—generally dictates visitation. But, the conduct of the parent seeking visitation rights will influence how the judge rules. For example, if the parent seeking visitation rights is late on child support payments or evidence exists demonstrating that his or her home is not suitable for children, the court may deny or severely limit visitation. Contrastingly, if the parent seeking visitation has a high credit score, maintains employment, and demonstrates other ways that he or she is responsible then it is highly likely that the court will grant visitation. It is important to know that regarding fathers, the court has to be certain of paternity and satisfied that child support obligations are being met before it addresses the merits of visitation. Furthermore, when the court is addressing the merits of visitation, its primary concern is not about which parent has sole custody or whether the parents have joint custody. Rather, it is focused on the best interest of the child.
Relatives’ Visitation Rights
Relatives such as grandparents, great-grandparents, stepparents, and siblings can file visitation petitions once the child is at least one-year of age. Typically, as long as the court is satisfied that the child’s mental, physical, and emotional health will not be adversely affected by granting visitation it will do so. Relatives’ visitation rights become more complicated where the legal parents have died and a close relative has not opted to adopt the minor.
Visitation Modification or Revocation
The court may revoke visitation to legal parents and relatives if it becomes harmful to the child’s mental, physical and emotional health. On the other hand, the court may modify visitation in the event of changed circumstances. Examples of changed circumstances include a parent moving to another state or the minor’s request to spend more or less time with a parent.
If you are seeking visitation, have concerns that your visitation rights may be revoked, or simply have questions regarding how to go about modifying visitation, contact an experienced family law attorney at JRQ & Associates for a free family law consultation.