If you and your ex have separated or divorced, there’s always the question of who has custody of the children. In some cases, the decision is clear-cut, and in others, it’s less so. In the vast majority of cases, it’s beneficial for children to see and have a relationship with both parents. If you are a father who has not been granted joint custody, you will still want to pursue getting visitation with your child. Read on to find out how you can get a court order for child visitation.
Talk to Your Child’s Mother
First, don’t assume that your child’s mother wants to keep you away from your shared child. It’s possible that she didn’t know that you wanted to be involved, particularly if you weren’t together when the child was born or if it’s been a while since you’ve seen your son or daughter. Many mothers want their children to have a relationship with their fathers and a court order for child visitation may not be nessesary. It’s not your child’s fault that the relationship didn’t work out and there can be detrimental consequences when children are not allowed to form a relationship with their fathers.
If your ex agrees that you should have child custody rights or visitation with your child, sit down with her (with the help of a mediator if needed) to create a parenting plan. This is a document that will spell out who makes decisions for the child, when you get to spend time with them, and how transporting the child from one parent to the other should take place. The parenting plan needs to be signed by both you and your ex, signed by a judge and filed with the court. This process is the important first step and can avoid needing a court order for child visitation in the first place.
Find a Legal Resource Center
If your ex does not agree that you should spend time with your child, you have more work cut out for you to obtain a court order for child visitation. Family lawyers are expensive, so if you would like to represent yourself in court, you should find a legal resource center. This is a place where lawyers, paralegals, and other legal professionals can help you learn how to represent yourself. Explain your situation to the staff and see what they say. Many times, fathers find out that they do not need to hire an attorney but can instead rely on the guidance of their legal resource group to obtain a court order for child visitation.
Learn How to Petition For a Court Order For Child Visitation
Your legal resource center can assist you in petitioning the court. This means that you will ask a judge to make a decision about whether you can have visitation or shared custody. You will need a template from the court in the state that you’re in if you want to petition for a court order for child visitation. Follow the template carefully when filling out the required information; leaving out information or otherwise not following the directions could cause the court to refuse to accept your petition.
Be sure you understand what you are asking for. There are two types of custody, legal and physical. Even if you don’t want your child to live with you half the time, you still might want joint legal custody. This allows you to help make decisions about your child’s medical treatments, schools, daycare and religious upbringing. You’ll need to indicate on the form what type of custody you are looking for. If you have evidence that your child is not safe with his or her mother, it’s important to include that on your request for sole custody.
File the petition in your jurisdiction and wait for your ex to be served. You’ll both be notified of the court date. You will need to show up at the right time in order to continue your petition for a court order for child visitation.
Prepare for a Court Appearance
It’s important to make a good impression on the judge during your court date. Dress appropriately for court — this includes styling your hair conservatively, taking out any facial piercings, and covering any potentially offensive tattoos. Put your best foot forward by acting professionally and not letting your emotions get the best of you. Talk to your legal resource center about how you can best prepare for your court appearance.
Once you have received a court order for child visitation, be sure to follow it carefully. Show up when you are supposed to and be ready to meet your child’s physical and emotional needs during visits. If you need to involve a guardian ad litem or if you need supervised visits, cooperate fully. This will allow you to keep your visitation privileges and develop a strong bond with your child that will last a lifetime.