If you are a non-custodial father, you no doubt find yourself bewildered with what can be a convoluted and often unclear situation. Knowing exactly what rights you have under the law can be a daunting task.
To help you gather data that is relevant to your situation, here are a few ideas on just how to understand visitation rights:
- Read the court ruling. One of the first things to understand is that the foundational document governing the process of visitation is the court ruling itself. Often, that is where your minimum rights of visitation will be spelled out, including any particular conditions relating to when you may begin a visit and when it is to end. Depending on the relationship that you cultivate with your former spouse, you may be able to work out more a more frequent schedule, but keep in mind those extras are not guaranteed and take place only because of the willingness of the custodial parent.
- Learn about jurisdictional laws. Because child custody and family laws vary so much across the board, your best bet is to acquaint yourself with the particulars of the jurisdiction that is responsible for managing the rights that were established by the courts. You will find that the court system will point you to the actual laws governing your situation. Unless you are well acquainted with the verbiage used in the lawmaking process, simply reading the text of the laws may not help you a great deal. In cases like these, a lawyer will help you understand your rights as a non-custodial parent. Along with those rights, you need to understand your avenues of recourse in the event you are denied visitation, as well as what actions can be taken against you in the event you are unable to provide court-ordered child support.
- Find appropriate organizations for assistance. Another excellent avenue for understanding your visitation rights is to align yourself with organizations in your area that have a vested interest in the welfare of your child and his or her relationship with you. One such organization is the Children's Rights Council, which has chapters all across the United States. Operating from the foundational principle that all children have an inherent right to a healthy and rewarding relationship with both parents, the Council can help point you in the direction of valuable resources. These resources can help you understand and claim your rights while still promoting a healthy interaction between you, your former spouse, and your child.
- If your child moves to another state. Even if your or your spouse moves to another state, keep in mind that the location where rights were originally established remains the court of jurisdiction. This is a very important point, as it means that the local laws regarding visitation may or may not apply. Legal custody and visitation enforcement varies from location to location; visitation rights depend greatly on what was established by the courts. Of course, if you and your former spouse agree, a court of jurisdiction in the new location can assume oversight of the agreement. In some cases, you may find the laws there to be more favorable to you than in the original jurisdiction. Just be sure that the change would strengthen your relationship with your child or children, as well as keep a good working relationship with your ex.
You can continue to demonstrate your love and support for your child by understanding your visitation rights as a father and making sure you abide by the basics of the agreement. Make sure you fully know your rights, and be sure to exercise them.