When it comes to picking up, dropping off or returning your children to their custodial parent, it’s always important to be on time as much as possible. Occasional tardiness likely won’t go unnoticed, even if you have a valid reason, such as Fort Worth’s rush-hour traffic or leaving work late.
But if the other parent has violated your visitation order and not allowing you access, you may need help enforcing the order.
Children benefit from a continuous relationship with both parents. But when one parent violates the agreement, things change, and the child’s relationship with that parent could be damaged.
Violation Of A Court Order
During the divorce, if you and your spouse did not come to a mutually acceptable visitation agreement, it’s very likely that the court decided on one for you. The Standard Possession Order details the schedule that both parents are required to follow.
A child visitation agreement is a court order that generally sets out the schedule that both parents follow in order to continue their relationships with their children after a divorce. Failing to follow that court order can lead to a jail sentence of as long as two years and a fine of as much as $10,000.
Violations can take the form of:
- Failing to show up on time
- Refusing you access and not allowing you to see them
- Claiming your child refuses to go with you
- Relocating outside of the county or a specific geographical area or out of the US without the court’s permission
- Trying to change the dates and times of visitation without consulting the court
- Withholding visitation due to alleged problems with the co-parent’s relatives or friends
- Declaring that visitations will end
- Sending another individual to pick up and drop off the children (this could be a new partner)
- Withholding visitation due to non-payment of child support (which is not allowable)
- Moving to a new address and failing to notify the court and the co-parent
- Adding a new activity to the child’s schedule to intentionally interfere with visitation
Unless there is concern or evidence of neglect, abuse or other problems, a child under 18 does not have the right to refuse visitation with the other parent. There should be language in the order that states that the visitation schedule ends when the child turns 18. Before the age of 18, a child is required to stick to the visitation schedule, even if the custodial parent has to take measures to make it happen.
Building Your Case
If you believe your former spouse will cause problems with visitation, keep a written record of each visit, complete with dates and times.
In order to comply with the visitation order, you must make attempts to pick up your child or children by going to the designated place at the designated time, knock on the door, and wait. Go even if the other parent calls you and says you may not have them. If your children aren’t there, or the other parent refuses to allow you access, there is a violation.
Your journal will allow you to keep written records of your attempts to make visitation. If you can bring a witness with you to see the refusal, that will also be helpful. Another option is to make a small purchase at a nearby convenience store (i.e., candy bar, soda) and keep the receipt in the notebook as evidence that you were at the right place, on the right day, at the right time.
Texas Law Help offers additional information on enforcing a visitation order when the other party refuses.
Modification Of The Agreement
What worked at the time of your divorce may not be working for you now, or two years from now. Parents change jobs and move for employment, and the “regular weekend visits” may be a lot more difficult than they were when you signed your visitation agreement.
You cannot change your agreement on your own with your former spouse. But you can request that the court grant a modification of the agreement to better suit your family’s needs. A family law attorney can help you draft a new agreement that works for you and your former spouse, then submit it to the court.
Your Attorney For Visitation Issues In Fort Worth, TX
Wendy L. Hart is an experienced family law attorney helping Tarrant County residents with visitation and other family law needs, representing both men and women. After her own divorce, Wendy became familiar with the divorce process and how it affects parents as well as their children.