When pursuing the right to maintain visitation with your child, you should understand the laws surrounding those rights in your state.
Understanding New York State's Child Visitation Laws
New York has two types of custody: legal and physical.
Legal custody refers to decision-making rights, and physical custody determines where the child resides. Parents who take the kids for extended stays, such as weekends, generally have joint physical custody.
Visitation rights are a little different from custody. They allow a non-custodial parent to spend pre-determined time with the kids. Parents may be able to be alone with the kids during visitation, but they generally must return the children by a specified time.
A court can order visitation rights, or parents can make visitation agreements together. (We will discuss the second option later in the article.)
When a court orders visitation rights, it considers the child's best interests first and foremost. Additionally, it follows laws that help protect children from potential harm during visitation. For instance, it may order supervised visitation to an unfit parent, and it allows for modifications as needed.
Petitioning for Visitation Rights Through the Court
To request visitation rights, you must file a petition with the appropriate court. From there, prepare for a hearing. During this process, you must present evidence about why you need visitation rights.
Remember, your job is to convince the court that your involvement is in the child’s best interests. You must also prove that a lack of contact will leave the child worse off. Doing so means gathering evidence of the benefits of your relationship with the child.
Courts can grant visitation to grandparents and stepparents. Some extended family or even close family friends could earn visitation, too, provided they make a strong enough case.
Getting Ready for Your Hearing
- Practice remaining calm, composed, and respectful.
- Go over your presentation several times, making sure you present your argument in a clear, concise manner.
- Seek advice from an attorney who can provide valuable insights and guidance on presenting your case.
- Prepare to be honest and transparent with the court about past conflicts or issues that led to your current situation. Judges are highly protective of kids, and they approach visitation hearings with a healthy dose of skepticism.
- Familiarize yourself with the laws and regulations surrounding visitation rights in New York. Reading this article is a good introduction to the process, but you should take the time to do deeper research and arm yourself with solid information.
- Gather all the necessary documents and evidence that support your case. The court will look for anything that proves you are a responsible, loving parent. Such evidence includes consistent communication with the child, a clean criminal record, and financial stability. This documentation helps prove you can provide a safe, supportive environment.
Creating a Visitation Agreement Outside of Court
It is not necessary to leave your visitation schedule up to a judge.
Mediation, for example, can help parents communicate and work on a parenting plan that benefits them and their children.
For some couples, collaborative law is the better option. In this process, each parent hires their own attorney, but there is no fight or attempt to “win.” Parents and lawyers work together to create a resolution. Because collaboration is the purpose, attorneys can even recommend one another. You can also bring in other professionals like child psychologists or financial experts. Collaborative law is a good choice for families who can afford help from many professionals.
You could also ask the court to appoint parenting coordinators to help. These professionals help parents navigate their differences and create a working visitation schedule.
Like everything else in this article, the children's needs and best interests are your top priority. If you can work with the other parent, these alternatives can help you avoid a lengthy, contentious courtroom battle.
Enforcing Visitation Agreements
If either violates the agreement, you must take prompt legal action. Doing so sends a strong message to delinquent parents, ultimately protecting your child's interests.
Remember, a visitation agreement is a court order, even if you create it independently. Violating this order can lead to severe consequences. Offenders can face both civil and criminal penalties. Depending on the circumstances, a parent who disregards the terms may be held in contempt of court. This charge can lead to fines, loss of custody or visitation rights, jail time, and even an arrest warrant.
Violation means a parent did not follow the order, and this legal standard applies in both directions. When we think of someone breaking visitation, we often imagine a parent who misses their appointments, fails to be on time, etc. However, a parent who blocks visitation also breaks a court order, and you must hold them to the same legal standards.
Furthermore, electronic visitation is just as valid as in-person visits. Parents must be on time for phone calls, video chats, or any other such visits your parenting plan outlines. You also cannot inhibit these visits. Failure to follow through with electronic visits can yield the same penalties.
Why Are Visitation Rights Important?
Parents who have a close relationship with their children want to maintain that bond, even when the family dynamic changes.
Visitation rights allow parents to see their children regularly. Doing so helps provide a sense of stability and continuity in their relationship.
For children, regular time with both parents can help alleviate feelings of abandonment or confusion during a difficult time. It allows children to continue building a secure attachment with both parents.
Studies show that a healthy visitation schedule has a positive effect on children’s mental health, behavior, and academic performance.
Maintaining a strong relationship is better for both parents and children. It helps keep families connected and provides a sense of normalcy during a disruptive time.
Law Office of Tzvi Y. Hagler, P.C. is here to help you create a realistic visitation schedule that works for all stakeholders. We can work within your circumstances, whether the other parent is agreeable or causing strife. Reach out to us by calling (516) 514-3868 or contacting us online.