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It’s not uncommon for parents to struggle with custody during a divorce. If one parent has been awarded sole custody, they may argue that it’s in the children’s best interest to not see their other parent. Every state has its own process for handling divorce proceedings, custody arrangements and visitation rights. This article will offer a general overview of custody agreements and advise you on what to do if you are being denied full access to your children.
The Difference Between Physical and Legal Custody
Many parents push the boundaries of their custody agreement because they don’t understand the difference between psychical and legal custody. Being awarded joint legal custody does not mean you are entitled to full, unrestricted access to your children. Legal custody grants you authority and validity in all matters pertaining to your child’s physical and emotional well-being such as their education, religious activities, relocation, healthcare and so on.
Parents who share joint legal custody of their children do not always have shared physical custody. A judge may awarded one parent sole physical custody of a child. In a sole custody agreement, a non-custodial parent has visitation rights laid out in an agreement. This could be every weekend or a rotating weekly schedule. Usually, children will live with one parent full-time to maintain consistency and stability in their lives.
If your ex-partner restricts access to your kids even when you have visitation rights, you have a right to take him to court. Unless he has proof that you are an unfit parent, he cannot disallow any visits that have been legally granted to you.
Understanding Your Visitation Rights
If you share joint physical custody, a judge may still have arranged a visitation agreement in order to ensure children are not constantly shuttled between two households. Most parents usually agree to rotate a schedule or visit on the weekends. However, with no visitation agreement and shared physical custody, you are both equally entitled to unrestricted time to your children. A parent cannot enforce visitation limits on another without a legal agreement or just cause.
Preventing a child from seeing their parent can be considered a form of abuse. Unless a parent has been deemed unfit by a judge, restricting access to their children is illegal.
In the court, “parental alienation” is the act of denying, preventing or restricting a non-custodial parent’s access to their children. In many cases, the parent with custody may try to turn the children against the alienated parent, resulting in Parental Alienation Syndrome (PAS). Tarnishing past relationships and preventing future ones from forming is detrimental to a child and should not be taken lightly.
The impact of divorce and custody battles on children are hard enough when things go smoothly. Being caught in the middle of two angry parents is even harder.
Your partner doesn’t just have to deny in-person visits to be in violation of an agreement; cutting you out of your children’s lives by limiting or refusing phone calls, video chats, text messages and other forms of communication are also considered restrictive.
When to Speak to a Lawyer
If your partner has limited your access to your children, sought to turn them against you or violated your custody agreement, it’s time to get in contact with a family lawyer. Collect as much proof as you can including call logs, text messages and any other exchanges regarding your children. Every state has its own divorce and custody laws, so contacting an attorney is your bet.
You want to ensure that all of your proceedings are done in an organized, civil manner. The other parent may go out of their way to prove they were restricting your access for the benefit of the children. Working with a lawyer from the start demonstrates responsibility on your behalf.
Even if you don’t have physical custody of your children, as long as a visitation agreement is in place, you’re entitled to see them during the allotted times. Many visitation arrangements also include guidelines for additional forms of contact that allow you to maintain an active role in your children’s lives.
Ultimately, the primary goal of any custody agreement should be to ensure children are able to maintain stable lives after a divorce. A lawyer can help you secure the role in your children’s lives that you deserve.