There are many factors that make divorce difficult and sometimes confusing. This is especially the case when children are involved. With that in mind, we’ve gathered some helpful information regarding child visitation laws to help clear a few things up. While many visitation orders are unique based on the situation, there are certain standards that are upheld in all cases. If you are in Austin and you’re looking for a lawyer to assist you in a child custody case, call The Law Office of Tobie Kuykendall. You don’t need to go through this situation alone. Let us stand by your side.
-Child Visitation Law
The rights of a non-custodial parent are governed by child visitation law. Visitation rights are typically handled by the state court as a portion of more encompassing family law cases like divorce, separation, alimony, and child support and custody as a whole. Visitation rights are in place to allow a parent that no longer lives with their child to take physical custody of them for a regularly scheduled time, specified by the Judge in charge of divorce or custody proceedings.
Child visitation can create many legal disputes between guardians. If parents are unable to agree to a specific visitation schedule on their own, the court will have to step in and make a decision the parents will then be required to follow. After a schedule has been determined, there may be conflicts that can arise, requiring the schedule to be altered after the fact. One parent may feel their child is not being properly cared for during their visitation time, resulting in another potential point of contention.
No matter what the cause of a visitation dispute is, it typically stems from a contentious emotional environment that has developed due to the deterioration of the parent’s previous romantic relationship. A lot of animosity has built up between the two parties, resulting in a divorce, but that animosity doesn’t disappear from the situation once the divorce has been settled. This creates a hostile environment where agreements are difficult to be made, and the child suffers because of it.
-Best Interests of the Child
One overriding standard upheld by all family law courts regardless of the state is the “best interests of the child” standard. This standard is in place to protect a child’s physical, emotional, and developmental wellbeing. Though it influences every step of custody proceedings, it is used particularly in situations when a disagreement regarding visitation comes down to the parent’s own concerns rather than those of the child. This is a way to make sure everyone involved is focused on what is most important — the needs and welfare of the child.
There are many factors that come into play when it comes to the “best interests of the child”, all of which are taken into consideration. Those factors include, but are not limited to: each parent’s emotional tie to the child, financial support that each parent can provide, and each parent’s ability to provide a safe, stable, and nurturing home environment. When a court makes a decision regarding visitation, they will also try to maintain the child’s education status and social support structure, so as to not create a larger disruption to their life than the divorce is already creating.
-Establishment of Visitation Rights
If a family law case is already underway, visitation rights will be established when the non-custodial parent files a motion for it in the existing case. If the request is agreed upon by both parents, it only needs to be presented to the judge for their signature. Any parent that requests visitation will be required to pay child support if they were not already doing so.
However, if a family law case does not already exist, the non-custodial parent seeking visitation will have to initiate one. If the parents are still married, visitation can be requested as part of a divorce or separation suit. When that is not the case, a petition can be filed to determine custody and support of the child. If the father is the one filing this request, they will be required to establish paternity and show proof of following court-mandated child support requirements before a court will consider a visitation request.
-Alteration of a Visitation Order
One of the most consistently litigated issues in all of family law is the alteration of child visitation orders. When you consider how much each parent’s living situation can change over the course of many years, it’s not surprising a visitation order would need to be altered prior to a child turning 18. In the time between the original order being given and a child entering adulthood, the court will maintain jurisdiction over the situation. Modifications to both visitation and child support are made at the same time, as they will go hand-in-hand depending on the amount of time the child spends with each parent.
In addition to the “best interests of the child” standard, any requests to alter a visitation order will also be governed by the “changed circumstances” standard of proof. That standard states that the parent filing for the alteration must provide evidence of circumstances changing to the point that the previous schedule is no longer sufficient. This can be anything from the relocation of a parent, a parent’s inability to maintain the current schedule, or a request from the child to spend more or less time with a parent.
Each situation is unique, especially when more than one child is involved, but the best interests of the child will always be the golden rule courts follow. The more you know about your specific situation the better off you will be when it comes to getting visitation rights that fit what you would like. If you need any advice regarding family law, child custody, visitation, and any other aspects of divorce, call The Law Office of Tobie Kuykendall today. You don’t have to go through this situation alone. We have years of experience in family law and we’re prepared to stand by your side through it all.