Divorce can be particularly hard for couples with children, and those without custody of them will have to deal with visitation petitions. These types of petitions will give you a legal privilege to visit your children at pre-appointed times. They also apply to children outside marriage as well as stepchildren, and even grandparents can file for visitation privileges in places that have particular laws in place.
Here are steps in writing a visitation petition:
- Consider a family law mediator. Family law mediation is an alternative form of resolution outside the legal system. A specialist will bring the two parties together and settle the issues between them without the presence of lawyers, and agreement can usually be attained where both parties can achieve harmony, including visitation schedules. If the issues remain unresolved, then a petition for visitation rights should be filed in a family court.
- Consult your lawyer. Research the regional laws for your rights then have your lawyer help you draft the petition. Your divorce lawyer should be well-versed in the family laws in your region and can help you avoid the pitfalls in your petition. State your identity and your relationship to the children named in the petition, listing them all by name and birth dates. Include your reasons for visiting them and your previous and current efforts in supporting them, attaching the relevant documents to validate your claims. Mention any advantages the children will get by your visits as well as disadvantages should your petition not be granted. Decide on your visitation hour preferences on a weekly and monthly basis, as well as holidays and special occasions. It is important to be consistent with these schedules, as failure to show up can upset the children and strengthen the position of the other parent.
- Finalize your petition. Type or print it neatly, check for errors in grammar or content, see if your attached documents are in order, then place your signature on the proper space. Make several backups of all paperwork then submit the original once your lawyer verifies its contents.
- Serve notice to the other parent. Deliver the documents after filing your petition.
- Be present at the scheduling conference. This is a preliminary meeting where the dates of future hearings will be set.
- Attend the temporary hearing. Usually 30 days after the scheduling conference, this hearing will have the family court issue you a temporary right to visit your children. Keep your emotions in check with this and later hearings, as the court may rule against you in cases of outburst. Also avoid bad-mouthing the other party during the proceedings.
- File a complaint when the other parent is denying your visitation rights. The other parent can be held in contempt if she repeatedly refused your visits. Make sure you are strictly following your visitation schedule; otherwise, the other parent can file for contempt in turn.
Remember, your children are already traumatized during the past couple of months, and disputes over visitation rights can extend the anguish they are feeling. Keep hostilities at a minimum in their presence, and avoid disparaging their other parent while they are in your custody. Go the extra mile when visiting them to support your right for continued visitations.