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What to do when child custody arrangements change

What to do when child custody arrangements change

Many parents of a child or children do not enter into a custody agreement in their separation agreement or consent order when their relationship ends.  On many such occasions due to circumstances or just inertia, one parent, usually, the mother (especially in non-married parents) ends up with physical custody of the child.  Sometimes the parents work out a perfectly satisfactory custody arrangement.  These arrangements can work for a long time or can fall apart in short order for various reasons.  In other situations, a predictable custody arrangement may never be established, or the physical caretaker refuses to allow the other parent to see or even contact the child.  This is true especially in the case of infants.

What if I’m prevented from visiting or seeing my child?

When a parent isn’t receiving the contact with the child that parent believes is his/her due or desire, the parent may attempt to enter into a custody agreement providing for a specified schedule or file suit to obtain a custody or visitation arrangement.  Note that according to our courts, Visitation is a lesser form of custody.

If the parties can negotiate a resolution, the agreement can be drawn up and executed.  It is enforceable; however, it may be better to file a “friendly” lawsuit to have the ability to enter the agreement in a different format, have a judge sign it and make it an order enforceable by contempt. Arrangements can be worked out especially when fear of something is causing the failure to allow sufficient contact with the child, such as drugs, serial romantic interests, lack of experience with child care, etc.  The agreement can provide safeguards to assuage the fears of the custodial parent.

Unfortunately, the commencement of visitation may require a lawsuit.  Mediation may resolve some of these cases, but others will need to go to trial.  At trial the parent seeking visitation must prove it is in the child’s best interests to have visitation with the parent; in most instances, this should not be too difficult.

If a parent is being denied visits with the child, the court can award attorneys’ fees in some circumstances once the court determines that the parent should have visitation.

Of course, in some instances, a parent is right to deny visits.  If a parent has a history of abuse of the child or otherwise endangering the child, fighting unsupervised visits is well within that’s custodial parent’s rights.

I didn’t want Visitation, but now I’ve changed my mind.

Modification of agreements and court orders can be made for visitation. Many times, a parent had a child when quite immature and at that time decided that parenting a child was not what he or she wanted.  Later, after maturing (or cynically after being made to pay child support) the parent determines he or she wants to be involved with the child.  At that point, an acclimation period may be helpful to establish a relationship with the child and comfort the other parent.  This is a series of steps which may start with a few hours once or twice a week supervised, increase in length but still managed, then go back down to shorter periods but unsupervised, rising in increments to the visitation agreed upon or ordered by the court as the ongoing schedule.

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