Many parents’ primary goal during divorce proceedings is to ensure they have custody of their children. Some couples agree on which spouse will take custody, but sometimes, the dispute is bitter. It is important to understand your rights as a non-custodial parent, so that you can be sure to spend as much time as possible doing what really matters: being with your children.
Unless convicted of certain crimes, or otherwise deemed to be a threat to your children’s physical, mental or emotional health, you are legally entitled to visitation time with your children. For your former spouse to deny this is actually against the law. However, the form your visitation takes may be up for a great deal of debate, depending on factors like your work hours and where you live in location to where the custodial parent is located. For example, a non-custodial parent who lives in a rural area several hours away from where a custodial parent and children live may receive less frequent in-person visitations than a non-custodial parent who lives 15 minutes away in the next town.
The watchword in determining visitation rights and schedules is reasonableness – a schedule that is unreasonable to one or both parties can lead to significant rancor, with the potential for problems in the future. The majority of states work hard to ensure this ideal is upheld, with some even granting the non-custodial parent a ‘right of first refusal’ for the right to take care of their children if the custodial parent needs to leave the state or be unable to exercise their rights for a certain long period of time.
Another relatively absolute right that is often disputed is the right of the non-custodial parent to information, especially if they have joint legal custody One spouse may have physical custody of a child, but having legal custody is defined in most states as the right to be involved in making major decisions for that child – essentially, the right to parent – and it is quite common that both parents share it.
Even if you do not have joint legal custody of your child, you have the right to know what is going on in his or her life, within reason. Wanting to be involved shows that you want to be a positive influence in your child’s life, and within reason, courts will generally enforce requests made by a non-custodial parent of the custodial parent that are informational in nature – for example, school progress reports or general health questions. Too many requests may be seen as harassment, but again, the watchword is ‘reasonableness.’ Courts will enforce your right to know.
A Professional Can Help You
Sometimes, spouses will attempt to shut the other out of a child’s life, for a variety of reasons. Most of the time, you are entitled to be there for your child, and having an experienced legal professional on your side can help you succeed in that goal. Skilled child custody attorneys will walk you through the process, and keep you informed of every twist and turn. Contact a law office today to discuss your options.