Q: When can my child decide for himself whether or not to visit the other parent?
A: The short answer to this is, “never.” The child’s other parent has the right to spend time with his/her child. If the relationship is strained, that is something for the child and parent to work out. Children often, as they get older, have other things they want to do–hang out with their friends, go to a party, etc. But the time with the other parent takes priority. Think about it this way: if your child says he doesn’t want to go to school, does he get a choice about it? Or if he doesn’t want to go to the dentist? You have an obligation to encourage a positive relationship between your child and the other parent.
Q: My child’s other parent is supposed to have him every other weekend, and he never picks him up. Can the judge force him to exercise his visitation?
A: Unfortunately, no. The possession schedule set out in your order is when the other parent has the right, not the obligation, to spend time with his child. The court cannot force a parent to be involved in his child’s life.
This is often a problem for the custodial parent, because you would like to have a “weekend off” to go and do other things while your child is with his other parent. Being a parent often involves the sacrifice of personal wants and needs.
Q: My child’s other parent never pays child support, so I don’t think he should be allowed to see the child. Can I deny visitation because he’s not paying his child support?
A: No, you cannot. The law is very clear that child support and visitation are completely separate issues. If one parent refuses to pay child support, he/she still gets to see the child. If the other parent denies visitation, child support must still be paid. There are legal remedies available to enforce your right to visitation AND your right to receive child support, so if either one is a problem please discuss it with your attorney.
Q: My child’s other parent is supposed to pick him up on Fridays at 6:00 p.m., and she is always late. How long do I have to wait?
A: There is no bright line rule for this. You should wait a reasonable amount of time before assuming that the other parent is not going to show up. If the matter goes before a judge, the court will look at how often the parent was late, how late she was, whether or not she called to notify you, and the reasons for being late.
Q: We have a Standard Possession Order, but it’s not working. Do we have to go back to court and change it, or can we work it out ourselves?
A: You absolutely can work things out yourselves! Almost all possession orders include language stating that the parents will have possession of the child “at times mutually agreed to in advance by the parties.” The Possession Order is your “fall-back” position. If you can’t reach an agreement, the times set out in the order control. If you can agree, whatever you agree to is acceptable. But you should keep in mind, any “side agreement” is not going to be enforceable by the court. Discuss this with your attorney if you have questions.
***THIS INFORMATION IS MEANT TO PROVIDE A BASIC SUMMARY OF LEGAL PRINCIPLES. IT IS NOT INTENDED TO BE A SUBSTITUTE FOR LEGAL ADVICE***