One of the most emotional issues in North Carolina family law cases is child visitation. The courts will generally arrange visitation rules based on what is in the best interests of the child or children. It presumed that the best interests of children, in most cases, is to have as much parenting time with each parent as possible, without complicating the child’s life more than it needs to be. If there is no legal custody or visitation arrangement set up, then the parent who has physical custody of the child (whomever the child lives with) often has more control over the children’s day-to-day lives, and the parent who does not have physical custody may not be able to have access to the children until those rights are established in court. This means that if you don’t have a legal arrangement stating otherwise, the custodial parent is under no obligation to ensure that you have visitation. This is why it is so important to speak to a North Carolina family law attorney as soon as possible.
Parenting Plans and Visitation Arrangements
One thing that a family law attorney in North Carolina can do you for you is to help you set up a parenting plan and visitation arrangement. Doing so ensures that there are legally established guidelines and rules that each parent must follow. Violating such an arrangement can lead to legal consequences, including losing primary physical custody of the child. Included in your parenting plan and visitation arrangement will be the specifics of times and dates for visitation, an established agreement regarding joint custody or sole custody, depending on the circumstances, and other specific parental rights, such as the right to attend school activities and be made aware of medical concerns.
Of course, there are times where one parent may violate the agreement out of necessity. It is always important to discuss the situation before challenging the parental rights of the custodial parent. You may find that something like work hours have changed and the arrangement needs to be altered. Whenever possible, you should try to address changes and disagreements in a civil manner and on a personal level before getting the courts involved.
What If the Custodial Parent Withholds Visitation?
If you are unable to address your visitation concerns with the custodial parent, and the custodial parent is clearly violating the agreement by withholding visitation, then you will need to seek legal representation to address this in court. Sometimes, a parent will withhold visitation because child support payments have not been made, and this is not legally allowed. Keep notes regarding the times and dates on which you attempted to pursue visitation rights and the custodial parent denied those rights. Then, be sure to request make-up time for the times when you were unable to have visitation as scheduled. If the custodial parent does not work with you to allow you to have normal visitation or make up time, then you may need a lawyer.
What If the Custodial Parent Consistently Violates the Agreement?
It is very common for parents to occasionally violate the visitation arrangement for various reasons. It may be unintentional or related to changes in routines or any other reason. Typically, you should be able to work things out without involving the courts by requesting make up time and accommodating changes in schedules. However, if the custodial parent is consistently violating the agreement, refusing to allow make up time, and clearly withholding visitation, then the parent who is doing this is in direct violation of a court order. Some states allow the non-custodial parent to contact the police in such situations. If you do this, you need to have the court order available to show the police who will attempt to make the custodial parent comply with that order. In many areas, this is considered such a serious offense that the custodial parent could even face jail time for being in contempt of court.
Keep in mind that if you choose to involve the police, this may be traumatizing for your children, and you may be better off handling the situation with a skilled North Carolina family law attorney, instead. This is the best way to avoid involving the children in the dispute any more than necessary. The attorneys at the Offices of Remington & Dixon will be able to defend your rights in court and minimize the stress on yourself and your children.
Jennifer is a founding partner at Remington & Dixon, PLLC. Jennifer concentrates her practice in the areas of family law, wills & estates, unemployment benefits appeals, and traffic. At Elon University School of Law, Jennifer was the vice president of the Public Interest Law Society and a member of the Family Law Society. During law school, Jennifer interned at the Elon University School of Law Field Placement Clinic with Legal Aid of North Carolina where she represented clients in domestic violence court proceedings.