In short, no, a custodial parent may not unilaterally deny visitation rights when a court has granted visitation.
If there arises a reason that a custodial parent believes visitation is not in the child’s best interests, then that parent would need to re-open their case to move for a modification of the visitation and receive an order from the Court that rules that visitation is no longer in the child’s best interest or is to be restricted in some way which is the most likely outcome as parents are entitled to reasonable visitation.
What Happens When a Parent Tries to Deny Child Visitation?
A common question and issue that comes up before courts is what happens when a custodial parent does not allow visitation with the non-custodial parent.
Here, the fact that one parent is the custodial parent presumes that the court order that has been issued names that parent as the one with most of the parenting time with the child.
Usually, a non-custodial parent is on what is commonly known as “standard visitation schedule,” which in Arkansas ordinarily means that they have visitation every other weekend, alternate holidays, and share summers.
Does the Custodial Parent Get to Decide Visitation Schedules?
Lawyers often have to explain to parents that being custodial does not mean that the visitation times are going to be completely up to them.
If there is a child custody arrangement ordered, then there is typically a visitation schedule lined out in that custody order. When there is a court order for child custody and visitation, that visitation is legally required to be allowed by the custodial parent.
So, it is not the custodial parent’s decision whether to allow visitation unless the custody and visitation order specifically states that it is.
What Happens if Visitation is Denied by the Custodial Parent?
If visitation is denied without a court order allowing this, the custodial parent could be found to be in violation or contempt of the visitation order. Contempt could lead to consequences such as fines, and custody change.
Contempt of court can also have the consequence of jail if the court finds the contempt to be so egregiously counter to the order.
However, without a court order in place stating visitation must be given, then the custodial parent, if an unwed mother, could deny allowing the father the to have unsupervised time with the child(ren).
We say if an unwed mother, because by virtue of being unwed when the child is born, the mother has legal custody until a court order rules otherwise.
This same unwed provision does not apply to the father.
However, you must be careful with denying visitation as it will be something seriously considered in future custody rulings if the other parent decides to file a lawsuit for custody or visitation.
Can Child Custody Orders be Modified?
As mentioned before, there are certain circumstances where the non-custodial parent could lose custody.
If the custodial parent believes that a modification of the child custody arrangements should be made due to safety issues like drug abuse, alcohol abuse or child abuse, or maybe the non-custodial parent has moved an unreasonable distance away, they can file for a modification of the order.
This doesn’t mean that going against the order because of hurt feelings is ok, but the proper processes must be followed to ensure that the court understands the circumstances and gives proper weight to the situation.
In some cases, even if custody is modified, supervised visitation could still be ordered during a rehabilitative period.
If you have questions of whether you may deny visitation to the non-custodial parent, you should contact an attorney and seek legal advice on how to handle your specific situation.