Child custody and visitation

It’s only natural that you should want to protect your child from danger during a divorce. Now that you and your spouse have decided to split up, you will have much less control over your where your child goes and who he will see—especially if your spouse has been granted joint custody or visitation rights.

Once visitation rights have been granted, they cannot be legally withheld unless a child is actively at risk. Many well-meaning parents have attempted to deny an ex-spouse access to their child, only to face court proceedings later. So how can you tell which actions give you the right to deny your ex-spouse visitation rights?

Visitation Rights CANNOT Legally Be Denied If:

  • A custodial parent doesn’t like the non-custodial parent’s friends, family members, or significant other
  • The child is sick or out-of-town visiting relatives
  • The ex-spouse has defaulted on child support payments
  • The non-custodial parent is incarcerated

Visitation Rights SHOULD Be Denied If:

  • A custodial parent suspects that an ex-spouse is abusing the child
  • The child is placed in an environment where illegal activities are taking place
  • The non-custodial parent is using drugs or alcohol during visitation
  • Any actions on behalf of the non-custodial parent place the child in danger

If your ex-spouse has placed your child in danger, you should report the activity to the police as soon as possible. Calling the authorities will create a record of the event, and may excuse you from violating the term of your visitation agreement. However, if your spouse is not found to have acted outside the boundaries of the visitation agreement, you could face harassment charges or be ordered to reinstate visitation.

While denying visitation rights may protect your child from harm, you may still face charges if you repeatedly deny your ex-spouse access without taking legal action. You must file an action against your spouse requesting the suspension of visitation rights, which will only take effect if the court approves the motion.

There are a number of things that can place your child in jeopardy, but not all of them can be used as grounds to withhold access to your children. To find out more about common problems with visitation rights, click the related links on this page or contact our office at (425) 460-0550.

Molly B. Kenny
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Divorce and Child Custody Attorney Serving Bellevue and Seattle Washington