Can I Legally Limit My Ex’s Visitation with Our Child?
Posted January 27th, 2024.
During divorce negotiations, you and your former spouse will discuss questions of custody and visitation. But what can you do if, after these matters have all been finalized, you begin to worry about your ex having visitation with your child? This blog will explain related issues of custody and then address what you can do, within the law, to limit time spent between your former spouse and your child. If you’ve been divorced and are now having difficulties, remember that an experienced New Jersey family law attorney can help you find workable solutions.
What Is Custody and Visitation?
Custody is divided into legal custody, regarding who can make major life decisions for your child, and physical custody, regarding where your child lives. Whichever parent lives with the child and takes care of them most of the time has physical custody and is known as the custodial parent. The other parent, who does not spend as much time with the child, is the non-custodial parent. An example of a physical custody arrangement is when the child lives with the custodial parent but spends two nights or less every week with the non-custodial parent.
Typically legal and physical custody can be either joint, requiring parents to share obligations, or sole, where only one parent retains most control. While joint legal custody, meaning having both parents share decision-making power for their child, is not unusual, joint physical custody involving the children spending equal amounts of time living with both parents does not happen often.
As a result, what we most often see is one parent with sole physical custody and another parent with visitation rights. Visitation schedules can vary from case to case, such that the non-custodial parent might have daytime, evenings, overnights, or weekends with their child, depending on the most optimal fit for the best interest of the child.
How Does the Custodial Parent Limit Visitation?
Two things are key here. First of all, a parent does not have an inalienable right to as much visitation time as they would like. Ultimately, questions like visitation all hinge on the best interests of the child. However, the custodial parent also cannot arbitrarily decide to alter a divorce settlement agreement and prohibit the other parent from visiting the child. If you want to limit visitation time, you will need to meet with the court to discuss changing the settlement agreement.
There are certainly extreme circumstances in which a judge might require that visitation be supervised or even deny a parent visitation rights completely. This occurs when the court determines that a parent is unfit, because of concerns like drug or alcohol abuse, a known record of abusive behavior, a known record of child endangerment, and a significant criminal history.
If your ex’s behavior is not at that level, you may also consider mediation. Medication is when a neutral third party helps parents negotiate with each other on custody and visitation. Most often mediation happens before the custody arrangements are set, but either parent can request mediation, even when a visitation schedule has already been established. Although the results of the conversation held in mediation are not by themselves legally binding, the parties may end up agreeing to a Consent Order, which can be legally binding.