It is the opinion of most courts that children need an ongoing relationship and regular engagement with both parents. As such, in most divorces, the parties agree or the courts decide on some variation of shared or joint custody, in which both parents retain their parenting rights and share the parenting responsibilities. The parenting plan will detail each parent’s rights and duties, as well as provide a visitation schedule, as per the parents’ visitation rights.
In some circumstances, however, parents may temporarily or even permanently lose their visitation rights or only retain the right to supervised visitation. For instance, in cases of child abuse, incarceration, or mental disability, the courts may grant one parent sole custody and only grant the other parent the right to scheduled visitation with his or her child.
Whatever the case and particular family dynamics may be, the court will make custody and visitation decisions based upon what it perceives is in the best interest of the child. For legal representation for your custody and visitation issues, call our family law attorney at Hecht & Associates for a consultation: 301-587-2099. Our visitation lawyers have experience dealing with complex custody and visitation issues.
What is the Difference Between Custody and Visitation?
Given the confusing and overlapping custody-related terminology involved in Maryland divorce cases, it is challenging for a lot of parents to fully understand their rights and the fine print of their settlement agreements and custody orders.
First of all, “custody” can mean several different things. Legal custody, which the court may award one (sole legal custody) or both (joint legal custody) parents, means that the parent will have the right and duty to make decisions regarding their child, such as educational, discipline, religious matters, etc. It does not necessarily mean that the child primarily lives with one parent; even noncustodial parents can have legal custody.
Second, “physical custody,” which the courts can also award to one (sole physical custody) or both (joint physical custody) parents, is separate and distinct from legal custody. Physical custody means that the parent will have the right and duty to provide a home for their child, i.e., their child lives with them some or all of the time.
Lastly, the term “visitation,” which courts sometimes call “access” or “parenting time,” is generally only applicable in situations where one parent has sole custody of the child, and the noncustodial parent spends scheduled time with the child. If the courts feel the noncustodial parent is unable or unwilling to provide a safe environment during visitation, the judge may order supervised visits.
When Might Supervised Visitation be in Order?
There are notable pitfalls to supervised visitation. It sends a message to the child that there is something wrong with their mom or dad. Plus, supervised visits are in a controlled atmosphere and overseen by someone who the child will deem “a stranger,” which makes it hard to foster a real parent-child relationship.
But there are some instances where supervised visitation is appropriate. Again, the courts will only order it when it is in the best interest of the child. For instance, courts may order supervised visitation when the noncustodial parent:
- Has major substance abuse problems
- Is incarcerated
- Has a mental disability that makes him or her unable to properly care for the child
In many visitation cases, supervised visits are just temporary until the parent is capable of handling regular, unsupervised visits. In very rare circumstances, the judge may deny one parent’s rights to visitation completely. This might happen in cases where any contact (even supervised visits) between the parent and child could be emotionally or psychologically harmful, such as when the parent has a history of abusing the child.
How do I Request, Amend, or Remove Supervised Visitation?
If you feel your child is in danger with his or her other parent and want to request that the courts limit your child’s contact with the other parent to scheduled visitation, or if you are a noncustodial parent and want to remove the supervision requirement on your visits, your best bet is to speak to an attorney for assistance. Hecht & Associates can review and prepare your visitation case to petition the court to consider your request.
You will need adequate evidence to support your request. Courts only order or modify supervision requirements when there is just cause and when it is in the child’s best interest. If you think your child is in danger with the other parent, you will have to prove it with evidence, such as police reports and arrest records, testimonies from eyewitnesses and child experts, medical records, etc.
And if you want to lift the supervision requirement on your visits, you will need to prove to the court that you have met the terms of the original order (e.g., parenting classes, rehab, probation, etc.), and that you are capable of providing a safe and loving environment for your child.
For help with visitation issues in Maryland, Virginia, and Washington, D.C., contact Hecht & Associates. Our visitation attorneys understand how important your relationship with your child is and how pivotal visitation issue cases are. Our team can facilitate any type of child custody and visitation issue you may have. Contact our visitation law firm today at 301-587-2099 for a consultation.