Understanding your rights as a non-custodial parent may be a bit confusing, especially if you’re used to having your child with you every day. If you’re experiencing such issues with your visitation rights or child custody, you should contact a child custody attorney in your state to advise you of your rights and how to protect them.
A Non-Custodial Parent, Defined
A non-custodial parent does not have primary custody of their child/children. If you are a non-custodial parent, your ex-spouse may care for your child for several weeks, while you may only be allowed to see them one or two weekends a month.
While every family’s schedule differs, the bottom line is that non-custodial parents only have certain visitation rights that dictate when and for how long they can see their child. The court terms these rights as “reasonable visitation rights,” but what is “reasonable” depends on your unique situation.
How Are Visitation Rights Determined?
The court in your state will play a large part in determining your visitation rights. The court may consider the following factors:
- Your child’s needs and requirements
- Where you and your ex-spouse live
- If there has been any neglect or abuse by either parent
- The work schedules of each parent and the child’s schedule
It’s important to know that child visitation orders can be modified if there is a change in either you or the other parent’s circumstances. For example, if you or the other parent remarries or if one of you dies.
In order to avoid any conflicts, you and the other parent of your child can come up with a parenting plan to present to the court before your child custody hearing. Your parenting agreement may include such things as:
- What weekends you are going to have visitation of your child
- Overnight visits
- Pick up and drop off times and locations
- How the exchange of your child will be made
- Schedules for birthdays, holidays, and any special occasions
What Are Reasonable Visitation Rights if I’m a Non-Custodial Parent?
Your child visitation schedule can take many forms. The term “reasonable visitation” generally leaves it up to you and the other parent to specify dates and times for visitation. Having a “scheduled visitation” agreement helps to outline a fixed schedule when your visitation is to take place.
It’s important to create a parenting plan and visitation schedule that is age-appropriate for your child. This plan can always be modified as your child grows up and matures.
You should keep the visitation schedule flexible and workable for everyone, including the other parent and your child. Keep in mind that as your child gets older, they may want to spend more time with their friends and in school activities.
What Are Supervised Visitation Rights?
Your visitation rights are not guaranteed. They can be suspended, restricted, and denied if the court believes this is in the best interest of your child. The court may also order supervised visitation, where you will meet with your child in the presence of another adult.
The question of supervised visitation normally will arise in the following situations:
- Violence and/or child endangerment: If you have abused or threatened your child with physical harm and/or emotional harm.
- Drug and/or alcohol abuse: If you or your child’s other parent is abusing drugs and/or alcohol, you may be denied visitation.
- Mental Illness: If you or your child’s other parent have a mental condition that could endanger your child. Note that all mental illnesses are grounds to have supervised or lost visitation rights.
- Sexual Behavior: Some courts believe that having the non-custodial parent’s partner spend the night, or having visitation in a home shared by a non-custodial parent and their partner, is not in the best interest of the child.
- Incarceration: If you or your child’s other parent is incarcerated, this is not enough to deny visitation, but the parent who is incarcerated may have their visitation rights suspended if the visits are upsetting or damaging to your child.
- Child Abduction: If you or the child’s other parent have threatened to kidnap your child or there’s a strong probability of abduction.
The court in your state will specify the time and length of any supervised visits. The court may also name who the supervised visit provider is and where the visits are to take place.
What Are My Rights as a Non-Custodial Parent?
As a non-custodial parent, you still have the following rights:
- Access to your child’s school and medical records
- Child support payments
- Spending holidays with your child; this could be for all the holiday or a portion of it, depending on what the court decides
- The right to report any neglect, abuse, or anything else that may have a negative impact on your child
- Other rights that will be listed in your child custody agreement
What Are My Rights if I Have Joint Legal Custody?
Even if you don’t have physical custody of your child but have joint legal custody, you have more rights than if you only were a custodial parent without legal custody.
If you have joint legal custody of your child, you have the right to have a voice in any important decisions regarding your child such as schooling, medical treatment, religious upbringing, etc. The court will expect you to take part in raising your child regardless of where your child spends most of their time.
Can I Lose My Visitation Rights?
The short answer is yes. You may lose your visitation rights if:
- You have violated the child custody agreement
- You or your ex-spouse become a threat to your child’s well-being and/or safety, such as if you are abusing or neglecting your child in any way
- Your lifestyle is incompatible with your child visitation schedule
Are there Tips for Non-Custodial Parents that I Should Follow?
The court in your state may grant you, as the non-custodial parent, generous visitation rights if you’re not given primary child custody. Here are some great legal tips if you are a non-custodial parent:
- Follow Your Visitation Schedule. You must follow your visitation schedule as ordered by the court. If there’s a reason why you can’t adhere to the visitation schedule, you should communicate any changes with the other parent of your child.
- Put Your Child First. You should always put the best interests of your child before your own. Make sure your child has a safe place to stay, food, and other necessities.
- Pay Your Child Support. If you are required to pay child support, make sure you do so, and on time. Don’t forget to keep track of your child support payments either through your paystubs or other methods.
- Hire An Attorney if You Have a Disagreement. If you have an informal child custody agreement and you are the non-custodial parent, you should have your agreement in writing. If you are unable to work out an agreement with the custodial parent of your child, you should hire a child custody attorney to assist you.
- Plan Your Visits Ahead of Time. You should take the time before your child visits to buy their favorite food and snacks, as well as plan activities such as going to a movie, playing games, etc.
- Get Your House Ready for Overnight Visits. As a non-custodial parent, you should have a separate room for your child and it should contain their favorite toys, etc.
- Pay for Any Extra Expenses. If you need to pay for things that go above and beyond your child support, do so. However, you should talk to the custodial parent if the expenses become too substantial.
- If Necessary, File for a Modification. If the child support or visitation agreement doesn’t serve you like you believe it should, you should first discuss this with the custodial parent. If that doesn’t work, you should hire an attorney.
As the non-custodial parent, it’s important to understand your rights. A child custody attorney in your local area can help you through the process and provide you with legal advice that is tailored to your individual circumstances. They’ll also know the laws applicable to your case and in your jurisdiction.
In addition, your child custody lawyer has the skills and knowledge to negotiate on your behalf to make sure your rights are protected. Trust them to assist you in preparing your case for court, should that become necessary.