The parent who is not granted primary custody of the children is generally known as the non-custodial parent. The non-custodial parent is entitled to visitation rights with the children, unless the parent is found to be unfit or unless there is some other significant reason that would be contrary to the children’s best interest. Although we referred to the non-custodial’s right as “visitation rights,” many courts refer to those rights today as parenting time, shared parental responsibility, partial custody and similar terms. In fact, over recent years, there has been a movement away from referring to the non-custodial parent as a “visitor,” and toward a discussion of “time sharing” between the parents.
All too often, parents fight over their right to custody or visitation with the children. In truth, however, it is the child’s right to have the benefit of both parents. As a general policy, courts will endeavor to keep both parents in the loop, and to expose the child to two parents, wherever possible. Where there is evidence of parental unfitness or a dangerous situation, such as the presence of drugs, alcohol, weapons or sexual misconduct, the court will terminate or suspend visitation rights or limit them in some way. If this is the case, you may want to contact a child visitation lawyer to assist in your case.
When a custodial parent alleges that the non-custodial parent poses a danger to a child, a judge may require the non-custodial parent to be supervised his or her visits with the child. Thus for example, at the outset of a case, supervised visitation may be ordered for a period of time to ensure that the non-custodial parent no longer presents a danger or a risk to the child. In some cases, the supervisor is court-appointed, or he or she may be a professional associated with a social service agency. In other cases, the supervisor is another family member, and this issue often presents a challenge for parties who do not agree on the appointment of the supervisor.
There is no established policy concerning the amount of visitation a non-custodial parent will be granted. In traditional arrangements, the non-custodial parent often visited with his or her children on alternating weekends, sometimes spending an additional mid-week weeknight with the children (with or without a sleepover). Yet many parents devise more liberal visitation arrangements. In some cases, the parents divide access to the children equally, on a 50/50 basis. In other cases, one parent will spend four days with the children each week while the other parent spends the remaining three days. Many parents, in fact, use their calendars and their respective work schedules, and the children’s school and recreational schedules to design complex and variable custody and visitation schedules. When parents are capable of communicating with each other, almost any visitation schedule is possible. However, if they cannot communicate or cooperate with each other, the court will need to set a very specific time sharing arrangement in place, with penalties for violating it.
A non-custodial parent’s entitlement to visitation rights may also depend on who else lives in the non-custodial parent’s home, and what kind of accommodations are provided for the children. A custodial parent is likely to object to visitation rights if there are any dangerous or potentially threatening members of the non-custodial parent’s household. The non-custodial parent should dedicate his or her attention to ensuring that his or her home is physically safe and free from all risks and perils and that there will be sufficient bedroom space and other accommodations for the children when they sleep over.
The amount and frequency of visitation exercised by the non-custodial parent may also affect the amount of child support paid by the non-custodial parent to the custodial parent. In effect, if the non-custodial parent is directly supporting the children by having them spend increasing amounts of time at his or her home, then the amount of money which he or she pays to the custodial parent should be correspondingly reduced. This is when a child visitation lawyer may assist you in these matters.
For more guidance on custody and visitation, be sure to read our library of custody tips. If you have questions or need assistance in your child custody case, don’t delay. Contact our child visitation lawyer Mark S. Guralnick now for a no-fee consultation.