Following a divorce, it is relatively common for one parent to move to another city or state. According to a report for the National Center for State Courts, an estimated 18 million children have separated or divorced parents, and one out of four of those children have a parent living in a different city. The study also found that within four years of a separation or divorce, 75 percent of single mothers will relocate at least once. These statistics make it clear that millions of children have very little face-to-face interaction with one of their parents.
Technology is now allowing divorced or separated parents to keep in touch with their children. Email, social media sites, and chat programs like Skype allow parents and children to interact while living miles apart. While many parents have worked out such arrangements, six states have officially adopted “virtual visitation” laws, which give family law judges the authority to award and enforce electronic communication as part of the parenting plan. Virtual visitation laws also allow courts to determine the frequency and duration of the electronic communication. Twenty-two other states have made efforts to add similar laws.
Critics of virtual visitation believe that virtual visitation provides excuses for non-custodial parents to move away and is not an acceptable alternative for in-person interactions. Advocates state that virtual visitation is not intended to replace face-to-face time, but that it is a wonderful way to strengthen or sustain a bond between a parent and child during times when they cannot be together in person.
Divorce Myth: It is Okay to Deny Visitation if the Other Parent is Not Paying Child Support
Myth: It is okay for me to deny visitation to the other parent if they are not paying child support. I should not have to let the other parent have the child if they are not contributing to their care.
Truth: Child support is completely separate from visitation. If a parent fails to pay their child support that does not mean that you can withhold the child from them. They have a right to see their child whether or not they are current on their child support, daycare payments or payments for sports and extracurricular activities. The courts look at what is in the best interests and wellbeing of the child. It is in the best interests of the child that they have interaction with both parents.
Parents also are not allowed to talk about the fact that one parent is not paying support in front of the children. You must always be aware of the best interests of the children. The courts have remedies for collecting unpaid funds so utilize those to address the issue. If the other parent is behind in their child support obligation, the State of Washington can garnish their wages. You can also ask the court for a judgment for the unpaid expenses.
Child Visitation During The Holidays
Any family law attorney will tell you that there is an uptick in calls to their offices, disputes, and questions during the holiday season – from Thanksgiving and through to Hanukah, Christmas, and New Year’s. In many cases, parents are having arguments and disagreements about where their children will spend the holidays and asking for changes to their parenting plans. Holidays can not only be an emotional times for parents who want to see their kids on special days, they can also be more complicated than other times of the year as extended family and vacations are often involved.
Parents should understand, however, that getting time in the courtroom before the holidays begin will be expensive and difficult. Courts see a significant rise in emergency dispute cases at this time and are also grappling with their own need for time off during the holidays.
Parents should also know that if a parenting plan already exists from your divorce, the judge will more than likely ask you to stick with that plan. The more recent your parenting plan and child visitation was drawn up, the more likely it will hold up in court. However, you may have a chance to get changes made if your children are older or if there have been other significant changes since child custody was settled.
What should parents who run into holiday-related child custody disagreements do? The fastest, best, and least expensive option is to listen to each other, compromise, and make a strong effort to settle the problems privately. Another option for those who want a more official agreement is to try mediation – an out-of-court option that uses a non-biased third party to help you settle your dispute.
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In order to deny the other parent visitation, you must prove to the court that it is in your child's best interests to do so. You cannot deny visitation to the other parent unless you have the approval of a judge. Call Molly B. Kenny at 425-460-0550 or fill out our contact form to schedule a consultation.