Is Withholding Visitation Against the Law?
When parents divorce or separate, they will often create a parenting plan that sets out when their child will reside with each parent and how major decisions regarding the child will be made. In fact, parenting plans are required in any divorce that involves children in Florida. That means that if the parents are unable to agree to create their own parenting plans, the Court will create one for them.
The parenting plan describes each parent’s physical and legal custody rights regarding their children. Kids will often split time between two households, or one parent will have primary custody, and the other parent may have visitation rights.
The Legal Effect of Parenting Plans
If the court awards physical or legal custody of a child, it is the parent’s right to be able to see their child in accordance with the approved parenting plan. If, for some reason, a parent or other individual withholds visitation rights, then that parent is violating a court order. Withholding visitation from the other parent is illegal, and it is a serious matter that can significant consequences based on Florida law.
If you have issues with the visitation schedule or you believe that it would not be safe to leave your child in the care of the other parent, there are ways that you can modify the parenting plan. However, withholding visitation without modification of the plan is usually a bad idea. It is not only a violation of a court order, but it can also have adverse effects for the child involved as well. Children thrive on structure, and depriving a child of regularly scheduled visitation can not only disrupt their regular schedule, but it can cause confusion and even resentment toward one or both parents.
Slight deviations from the visitation schedule due to conflicts or other personal matters may arise. In those situations, try to reschedule visitation or work with the other parent to rearrange schedules. Working together can avoid a lot of conflict and stress. Cooperation also sets a good example for your child as well.
Reasons Parents Attempt to Withhold Visitation
One of the most common reasons that a custodial parent will refuse to allow visitation is because the other parent is not holding up their part of the parenting agreement. That could mean many things; it could mean that the non-custodial parent is not taking the child to extracurricular activities as required or that he or she is failing to pay child support as the court has ordered.
However, these are not valid reasons to withhold visitation. Keep in mind that visitation is not in any way dependent on whether a parent is keeping up with his or her child support or spousal support obligations. Those requirements are completely separate and apart from visitation rights.
Consequences If You Withhold Visitation Rights
You can take your case to court if visitation rights are consistently being withheld. The Court can order the custodial parent to allow visitation rights. If the custodial parent continues to ignore the court order, they run the risk of having custody permanently changed to the other parent as a form of punishment for disregarding the court order.
If visitation is being withheld in your situation, you have legal options. An experienced family law attorney can be an invaluable resource in these circumstances. Call today for more information.