The Consequences of Withholding Visitation Rights
Visitation is an important part of any custody agreement. However, it can be difficult to allow your former partner to spend time with your child after having sustained multiple negative experiences with them in the past. In addition to any perceived hostility from the other parent, many situations might make you tempted to withhold visitation, such as attempts by the parent to manipulate your child, failure to pay child support, or even risk of physical or psychological abuse. If the court has already determined that the other parent has visitation rights, withholding visitation is an act of defiance against a standing court order and could result in severe consequences. In fact, the other parent can even accuse you of kidnapping. That’s why it is critical to follow the appropriate legal procedures for your situation instead of simply attempting to withhold visitation rights on your own. A family law attorney can go over the specifics and help you determine the best course of action to ensure the safety and wellbeing of your child.
What Constitutes Legal Visitation?
To have legal consequences, the act of withholding visitation rights would need to apply to a situation where the other parent has actually been granted visitation rights in the first place. Custody agreements will often detail exactly how visitation should be handled, including specific dates and transportation responsibilities. If a parent spontaneously decides they wish to have the child come to their residence, and the other is unable or unwilling to facilitate the visit, this would not be considered an instance of visitation withholding. In other words, if a parent who usually only sees their child every other weekend suddenly receives concert tickets to a Wednesday night show and asks to take their child to a concert, they would have no real legal standing if the other parent objects to the outing.
On the other hand, if you have a set schedule in your agreement that is consistently violated, that is a matter that can be brought to court. During these proceedings, the judge may determine that a new custody agreement is in order, and they are unlikely to favor the parent responsible for the visitation violations.
What Are the Consequences of Withholding Visitation Rights?
When you withhold visitation rights, the other parent can immediately contact the police for assistance in enforcing said visitation. If the situation persists, they can also file for contempt in court. In some cases, they can actually file a lawsuit against you on the grounds of intentional infliction of emotional distress, interference with visitation rights, or breach of contract. At the point, the case goes before a judge, and if they determine that you are willfully disobeying the order, that can have serious consequences. Depending on the severity of the situation, the judge may revise your current visitation arrangement, granting even more rights to the other parent. In fact, the judge may determine that the other parent should have primary custody over the child instead of you. Additional penalties beyond your rights to your child can include jail time as well.
In extreme situations, you could be charged and arrested for kidnapping. If you are found guilty in court, that will have a severe negative impact on the future of your relationship with and access to your child.
What You Can Do If the Other Parent is Withholding Child Support
If the other parent is withholding child support, you likely have legal standing to bring the case to a judge. An experienced family law attorney can assist in this matter by helping you collect evidence of the violations and presenting your case to the court. Given that child support is mandated by a court order, this can ultimately convince a judge to make changes to your custody agreement in your favor, in addition to enforcing the payment of missing child support.
What You Can Do If You Are Concerned for Your Child’s Safety
It is the utmost priority of family law in California to find an arrangement that provides for the safety and wellbeing of the child involved. If you suspect that the other parent could be placing your child at risk, it’s extremely important to go through the appropriate channels in order for the correct legal actions to take place. For isolated instances, law enforcement is an appropriate resource. You can file a police report or call child protective services, as they have the resources to immediately intervene on your child’s behalf. Unfortunately, in some cases, the abuse or neglect is far more insidious and difficult to demonstrate during the course of a police visit. In the event of suspected long-term neglect, the key to successfully keeping your child safe from the other parent is in presenting a solid case with actual evidence to support your claims.
Your family law attorney can guide you through this process, collecting information such as dates, photographs, and statements from relevant parties such as law enforcement individuals, hospital staff, and social service workers. After accumulating all documentation and witness testimony, you can then file for a protective order to prevent the other parent from having any further interactions with your child.
Navigating the Complexities of Visitation Rights
While in some cases withholding visitation rights may seem like the most logical course of action, it usually comes with a host of negative consequences that could result in a new custody agreement that allows your former partner increased access to your child. If you are legitimately concerned about the wellbeing of your child during visitation, work with your family law attorney to come up with a solid case that will prove the inadequacy of the other parent. Depending on the severity of the situation, a successful case could result in the removal of visitation rights for the other parent altogether. If you suspect that your former partner may present some sort of risk to your child, you start the process of filing for a protective order against them by contacting our offices and calling us at 858-793-8884.
Feel Free to Contact Our Office with Any Questions