If you are a custodial parent in North Carolina, you may wonder when you can deny visitation to the non-custodial parent. The answer is: it depends. This blog post will explore when denying visitation is appropriate and when it might not be allowed. We will also discuss what happens if both parents cannot agree on a visitation schedule. Keep reading to get all the answers to your questions!
How Child Custody Works in North Carolina
When you have custody of a child, you have the right to make decisions about your child and keep them with you. In North Carolina, there are two types of custody: physical and legal. A family court’s child custody order may grant parents joint or sole custodial rights.
Physical custody: The Right to Keep Your Child In Your Care
Physical custody of a child means that you can keep your child in your care.
Sole physical custody is when the child lives with one parent while the other parent may have visitation rights.
Joint physical custody involves a shared living parenting arrangement. Joint physical arrangements can take on many forms depending on your specific situation.
For example, “One parent may have primary physical custody, meaning the child lives with that parent most of the time, while the other parent has secondary physical custody, for example, every other weekend, or regularly scheduled dinner visits. Alternatively, there may be an equal split in which the child alternates between the parents regularly.” (1)
Whether joint or sole, custody solutions permit children to spend adequate time with each of their parents.
Legal Custody: The Right to Make Decisions About Your Child
A single parent with sole “legal” custody can make significant decisions about their child’s life unilaterally and without the need to consult the other parent.
When parents possess joint “legal” custody, they are responsible for consulting one another and making significant decisions as a unified force. These choices involve matters like the educational institution their child will attend or making medical decisions. If the parents cannot agree, a parent may seek out a legal answer from the family law court.
Visitation Schedules in a Divorce Proceeding
Even if a court gives you sole legal and physical custody of your child, the other parent will have the right to visitation, also called “parenting time.” The only time the other parent has no child visitation rights is if the court believes that visitation is not in the child’s best interests.
A family law judge usually makes a child custody court order with visitation rights for a non-custodial parent. Just because a noncustodial parent loses custody does not mean they lose the right to spend time with their child.
Usually, the judicial proceeding will lay out the non-custodial parent’s visitation rights with specific times for their parenting time.
Will the Court Deny Child Visitation to the Other Parent?
Both parents are entitled to visitation (also called “parenting time”) with their kids. The parent without primary physical custody of the child will receive court-ordered visitation or parenting time.
North Carolina’s custody laws established minimum guideline amounts for parenting time. Minimum guidelines usually mean one weeknight per week and visits every other weekend.
A court may award more than the minimum guideline amount. However, a family law judge will not order less than the minimum unless the child’s safety is an issue. In cases where the child may not be safe alone with a parent, the court may order supervised visitation.
When Can You Deny Visitation to the Non-Custodial Parent?
So when can a custodial parent deny visitation? The answer to that question is complex. However, denying court-ordered visitation without legal reasons is never a good idea.
If the noncustodial parent has visitation rights and the custodial parent refuses to honor the visitation order, there may be legal repercussions.
You can’t legally deny visitation for a non-custodial parent’s refusal to pay child support payments. While child support is crucial, there are other legal ways to demand the help you deserve.
If you choose not to follow the visitation schedule in a divorce agreement, you may give the non-custodial parent grounds to take you to family court. Giving the noncustodial parent reasons to revisit child custody arrangements opens you up to lose custody rights.
You could also face serious consequences such as contempt of court charges. Unless your child is in danger, a noncustodial parent deserves visitation time.
Denial of visitation can be a form of emotional abuse, so before limiting parent child visitation, talk with your family law child custody attorney about denying child visitation.
Custody Evaluations: Asking for a New Custody Order
There are specific reasons that child custody arrangements may change. The family court always considers the child’s well-being in any divorce settlement and custody case. Usually, this includes reasonable visitation, even if the noncustodial parent requires “supervised” visitation.
However, if the noncustodial parent poses a problem for your child’s well-being, it’s best to go through legal channels by discussing your options with your family law attorney.
For example, suppose you see signs that the non-custodial parent struggles with a new substance abuse disorder or has a recent criminal record that you think is pertinent to visitation schedules. In that case, you may need to ask the court for a custody evaluation.
Perhaps you believe visitation should now be supervised and would like to ask the court for a mandated supervisory figure to be present at all interactions your child has with the non-custodial parent.
In cases where you worry about your child’s well-being, a custody evaluator may help the court consider the situation and each parent’s capabilities to parent the child. However, there are also cases where your child’s health and well-being are at stake, and you must take immediate action.
If your child suffers or could likely suffer physical abuse or sexual assault, these are dire circumstances that rightly should affect custody and visitation. If the noncustodial parent poses a threat and should lose their legal right to visitation due to abuse, you have legal options for protection.
A Domestic Violence Protection Order (DVPO) can limit where your ex can live or how close they can come near you or your children, effectively denying visitation rights. If the noncustodial parent violates this protective restraining order, law enforcement can arrest them on the spot.
A protective order can also order the noncustodial parent to refrain from doing any or all of the following:
- Contacting you or any children directly or indirectly
- Threatening, abusing, or following you or any children
- Harassing you or any children by phone
- Visiting your home or workplace
- Treating a pet cruelly
If you obtain a DVPO, the court grants you protections often including:
- Awarding you temporary custody
- Denying visitation rights to the non-custodial parent
- Ordering ex to support minor children
- Awarding you attorney fees
- Prohibiting the abusive partner from owning or purchasing a firearm for a specified amount of time
- Ordering local police or other law enforcement officers to deliver protective orders to school principals named in the order
Ex Parte/ Emergency Order
You can also request an ex parte or emergency order where a judge grants immediate relief before the DVPO hearing. If the court believes your situation is dire, the ex parte order takes effect immediately, with the sheriff’s office notifying the appropriate authorities, such as school officials or daycares.
This type of emergency custody order can give you temporary sole custody if your child is at substantial risk of the following:
- Bodily injury
- Sexual abuse
An ex parte order may require the non-custodial parent to immediately:
- Stay away from their own children (denied visitation)
- Surrender their “firearms, ammunition, and gun permits” to the sheriff. If the abusive partner violates the order to surrender firearms, a court can charge them with felony-level criminal acts resulting in jail time.
A judge only issues an ex parte order when it is clear that you or your children are in danger of immediate domestic violence.
When you receive an emergency custody order or a DVPO, the court will schedule a hearing within 10 days. Before the court legally denies visitation rights, they will need to hear both sides.
Legal representation from an experienced family law attorney can help you present your case for the best outcome.
Our Experienced Child Custody Attorneys Can Help
At Plekan Law, we help parents find the best outcomes for their children. We understand the legal ramifications of your choices and how to help you make decisions that enable you to care for your children.
Our experienced family law attorneys represent you whether you need to change custody arrangements or file a DVPO or ex parte order. Whether you’re a custodial or noncustodial parent, our family law attorneys can help protect your rights regarding visitation and child custody.
Let us provide the legal assistance you need during these difficult times. We will do everything in our power to ensure your children have a safe, healthy environment for their future!
Call our office today to schedule an appointment with one of our qualified legal professionals. We look forward to helping you create the best outcome for your children.