Visitation in a Massachusetts Divorce
Overview to Visitation
Visitation is the part of the court order that
defines when, how and where the non-custodial parent may have contact with the
child. Visitation is limited by the fact that legal custody belongs to the other
parent. This means that your visitation does not give you the authority to
conflict with the long range decisions and policies of the parent with legal
custody. For example, if the parent with legal custody has decided to raise the
child in the Jewish tradition, the parent with visitation rights may not take
the child to be baptized in a Catholic church.
There are no reported cases of a court honoring
complete denial of visitation for a parent. Even in cases of abuse, the only
reported cases have upheld supervised visitation. Supervised
visitation is when the parent is only allowed to visit with the child in the
company of another person. This person is usually a friend or relative that the
two parents agree will be allowed to act as a chaperon. Supervised visitation
often calls for a restriction of visitation to a particular location and time.
Who can be awarded visitation? Obviously a
biological parent can be awarded visitation. Additionally, grandparents (even
when the parents weren't married or are not currently divorced) and step-parents
may be awarded visitation rights. While there are no reported cases of brothers
or sisters being given visitation, a strong argument could be made that it would
be in the best interest of the child.
When can visitation be denied? The court
has the power to deny visitation. Normally the court will only stop visitation
for a certain time or until a certain task is performed. For example, the court
has previously stayed visitation until the parent met their financial
obligation. Many parents feel they have the right to stop paying child
support, but they are wrong. Withholding of child support will only get you in
trouble and possibly arrested.
Long distance solutions: Technology
offers some innovative and creative ways for parents separated from their
children to connect. "Virtual"
visitation is coming to be recognized by the courts as a potentially
important way to supplement in-person visits.
What if you fear for your child's safety or
just do not want to see the other parent?
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visitation protects the safety of the child and centers are available
throughout Massachusetts. "Monitored
Exchange" programs allow the child to move from one parent to the other