During and after a divorce, both parents are often most concerned with matters pertaining to the children. Who will get custody? How will visitation work? Who will make decisions for the child? Who gets to decide when a child is too sick to go to visitation? What if one parent feels that the other is unfit to have custody or visitation? These questions can really only be answered on an individual basis because every couple and every family is different. With that being said, here are some things you should know about fathers visitation rights after a separation or divorce.
Physical vs. Legal Custody
When it comes down the questions surrounding fathers visitation rights & custody, many parents get confused because there are two different types of custody to consider. First (and often the most important on a day-to-day basis) is physical custody. This determines where the child will live. Will he or she live with both parents, spending a roughly equal amount of time at each house? Or will they live with one parent, visiting the other at certain times of the week or year?
The specifics generally depend on where the parents live, when the child goes to daycare or school, and who the primary caregiver has been to this point. Teenagers usually have some input on where they want to live, as well, which can affect fathers visitation rights.
Legal custody refers to which parent or parents have the right to determine where the child goes to school or daycare, whether they can have access to medical records and make medical decisions for the child, and so on. Sometimes parents will share joint legal custody even if a child lives with one parent.
Reasonable Fathers Visitation Rights
If one parent is awarded custody, then the other parent might be awarded “reasonable visitation.” This allows for flexibility within the visitation agreement and fathers visitation rights. The problem here is that what seems reasonable to one parent might seem unreasonable to the other. In these cases, a mediator can help the parents come up with a plan. Sometimes a guardian ad litem is involved. Still other times, the parents are able to come up with a fair solution that is in the best interest of the child on their own that includes mother and fathers visitation rights.
A parenting plan is a document that parents make in order to meet their child’s needs. It will spell out which parent the child lives with, what times he or she spends with the non-custodial parent, and where the child will spend the holidays. It will even specify what time each parent will receive the child and who is responsible for transportation. all of this is part of the mothers and fathers visitation rights.
If Abuse Is Involved
If there has been any type of domestic abuse, either between a parent and a child or between the parents, child visitation rights can be limited. When it is allowed, supervision is often ordered by the judge. In this case, a neutral third party might pick up and transport the child between the parents and will also supervise all interactions between the child and the parent suspected or accused of abuse. In some cases, no visitation or contact will be allowed at all. This can have a significant impact on fathers visitation rights even if accusations are untrue.
If you are a father who has been accused of abuse, be sure to talk to your legal resource group so they can point you in the right direction. Sometimes evaluations or parenting classes are needed in these situations to ensure the fathers visitation rights.
The Divorce Decree
The document that will tell you, as a father, exactly what your visitation rights are is called the divorce decree. That will specify what your visitation rights are. Keep in mind that if you do not agree with what is on the divorce decree, you can appeal or go back later to modify the terms of the custody agreement.
What you cannot do is take it upon yourself to not follow the decree, as this can result in not only contempt of court but also the loss of whatever visitation you have been granted. You may not stop child support payments, keep your child longer than the decree says you can, or harass the mother of your child.
If you are a dad who has questions about visitation, the best thing you can do is visit a legal resource group. This is a group of attorneys and other legal professionals who help men in your situation find the resources they need to represent themselves in court. They will assist you in maintaining a relationship with your child even if you are no longer in a relationship with the child’s mother. Knowing how the legal system works and how to handle hearings is an empowering way for you to put your best foot forward as you seek fair visitation with your child.