Family Law Attorneys Committed to Standing Up for Your Visitation Rights

Parenting time, also known as “visitation,” is an important joint right of the children and the non-custodial parent and has been found by the courts of this State to be more precious than any property right, which may not be denied absent a showing of extraordinary circumstances. A guiding principal of the law in this area is that the best interests of a child lie in being nurtured and guided by both parents. In order for the non-custodial parent to develop a meaningful, nurturing relationship with their child, the courts have also held that a parent should receive frequent and regular visitation with their child, absent extraordinary circumstances, in order for the visitation to be meaningful. We often advise clients who are hesitant to consider visitation between their children and the non-custodial parent that even parents in jail are granted visitation with their children under certain circumstances.

When considering what would constitute extraordinary circumstances, courts look to whether visitation would be detrimental to the child’s wellbeing. In circumstances where a non-custodial parent has abused the child in some way, the Court may determine that visitation may be detrimental to the child’s wellbeing and not appropriate, or it may determine that some level of visitation, supervised by a mental health professional, may be more appropriate for a particular child. These cases are very fact-sensitive and unique, and a potential client should be very wary of what a “friend’s” experience in court may have been, as their specific circumstances could be quite different than yours.

A stereotypical every other weekend and Wednesday evenings for dinner may not necessarily be what a court may end up ordering, where both parents have historically been very involved in the child’s life and live relatively close to each other. In such circumstances, it is becoming more and more common for courts to provide a non-custodial parent with visitation of two or three days per week where such visitation would best serve the child’s interests and not be disruptive to the child’s activities and school work.

Where parties live a great distance from each other, every other weekend and midweek visits may not be possible, such as where parties live several states away. In such circumstances, the courts are required to fashion a schedule of parenting time for the non-custodial that provides greater quality of parenting time where quantity may not be feasible. In these circumstances, it is not uncommon for non-custodial parents to receive a much greater portion of the child’s summer vacation and school recess periods to make up for the long periods of time when they are not able to have visitation during the school year. This sometimes creates a sense on the part of the custodial parent that they are not provided enough downtime with the child and only see them during the school year when they have to be the disciplinarian while the other parent gets to be the “good time” vacation parent.

Whatever the schedule of visitation may be, the custodial parent must be very careful to promote the relationship between the child and the non-custodial parent, as this is one of the most important factors courts consider when determining which parent should be (or continue to be) the child’s custodial parent. Courts have held that where a custodial parent fails to promote the relationship between the non-custodial parent and the child, such actions are considered so detrimental to children’s best interests that the courts may transfer custody of the child to the other party, if they are more willing to encourage the relationship between the child and the non-custodial parent.

At Mangi & Graham, our family law attorneys, who serve Queens, Nassau, Suffolk, and other surrounding counties, have a great deal of experience in assisting parties to maximize their relationship with their children through the appropriate parenting time schedule and are more than ready to discuss the options with you.