Divorce is difficult enough, but when you have children, the process becomes more intense. Not only do you have to work through the process and the changes, but you also have to help your child understand and make the transition as smooth as possible. When it comes to visitation, custody and parenting plans, most courts will require that both parents have fair and equal access to the children. While this may typically be in the child's best interest, that isn't always the case. Here's a look at some of the reasons you may be able to legally refuse to allow your former spouse to see y our children.
Suspicion of Abuse
If you have any reason to believe that your former spouse or anyone in their household has abused your child, you may be able to refuse visitation. If you do this, though, you'll have to back up your visitation refusal with a legal complaint to the authorities. You have to have an investigation launched or your former spouse can take you to court for violating the custody agreement.
Imminent Safety Risks
Even if you don't have any reason to suspect any form of abuse, any suspicion that your child is facing an imminent safety hazard or danger by leaving with the other parent may be grounds to refuse visitation. This can be as simple as a former spouse showing up somewhat intoxicated to pick up the kids or as severe as being physically aggressive toward you and making threats toward the children.
In either case, make a call to the authorities right away to document the situation and protect yourself legally for refusing visitation. As a parent, it's your obligation to protect your child from these types of safety threats, and to report them if they occur.
Your Child's Refusal
Kids can be emotional and difficult, particularly during the adjustment after a divorce. If your child is refusing to visit your ex, it may simply be an effort to exert some form of control over the situation, or it could be more concerning. Take some time to talk with your child about the situation to find out why he or she doesn't want to go. If there's something going on at the other parent's house that is making your child uncomfortable, you may be able to refuse visitation. If your child is adamant that he or she does not want to go, be open about the child's unwillingness to your former spouse and document it. If there's something going on that's of concern, your attorney may need to step in and have the custody order altered.
Reasons That Are Not Typically Permissible
Just as there are situations in which you may have a legal right to refuse your former spouse visitation, there are also some situations where you cannot legally refuse visitation. The most common of these is in response to a failure to pay child support. A parent's visitation rights are not tied to his or her ability or willingness to pay support. Support and visitation are unrelated in the eyes of the court, so you can't withhold your children due to a failure to pay.
You also can't refuse visitation simply because you don't like your former spouse's new significant other. If there's a reason for concern, such as a criminal history or suspicion of inappropriate behavior, that's different. If you are just unhappy that he or she is moving on, that's not an acceptable reason to refuse visitation.
The best way that you can avoid visitation and custody issues is to work together with your spouse and establish a clear parenting and visitation plan from the beginning. Make it clear, through your attorney, exactly what is expected on both parts. Live up to your end of the agreement and you'll have better legal support in the event of an issue later.
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