Child Custody: Visitation Change?

Do I Have to Send My Child for Visitation?

We get a lot of phone calls and e-mails each week concerning child custody problems.  One of the biggest problems we hear about is visitation (or possession).  Even in the most agreeable divorce or the most amicable split, visitation causes problems.  Because of this, we wanted to provide tips.

Visitation and Child Custody

Visitation Can Be Hard. You Can Help.

While changing visitation is certainly appropriate, and even necessary, in some situations, there are  things to consider.   Texas judges place the best interest of the child at the top of their priority list.  Also the courts generally take the position that barring unusual circumstances, children need a relationship with both parents.

So, here are the things we hear most often along with our responses.   We realize there are almost always unique facts and research all issues before deciding to proceed with court action.

“He isn’t paying his child support. Do I still have to let my daughter visit him.”

Short Answer:  Yes.

Child support payments and custody are two separate issues.  Should he pay child support?  Of course he should.  Can you do anything about it?  Yes you can.  You can enforce the order.

What you can’t do is withhold visits when he is not paying child support.  If you do that, he can enforce against you.

“Her new boyfriend is a jerk.  Does my son still have to visit his mom?”

Short Answer:  Yes

Your ex is allowed to have a boyfriend present during her visits unless your order specifies otherwise.  Is it a good idea to have your son around a jerk?  No.  Can you do anything about it?  Yes you can.  You can talk to your ex about the situation calmly and you can make sure the jerk-like behavior isn’t something worse, like abuse.  Talking may work and if it is abuse, then you can take action.  The good news is that if he is truly a jerk he hopefully will not be around long.

What you can’t do is withhold visits because her boyfriend is a jerk.  If you do that, she can enforce against you.

“She is dating a criminal.  I am not letting my kids be in that environment.  Do they have to go?”

Short Answer:  Maybe

If he currently engages in criminal behavior, then your children could be at risk, so you need to take action immediately.  Contact an attorney right away.  If you allow the situation to go unaddressed, you could have a problem with the courts yourself.  If he is a criminal who already served his time, it depends on the offense.  Talk to a family law attorney to get more information.

Your attorney can file for a modification of your current order or if it rises to a level of immediate danger, then the attorney can file an emergency motion.  You will be required to sign an affidavit describing the situation.

“He never gets them to school on time,” or “She never gets their homework ready, so do I have to send them during the school week?”

Short Answer:  Yes.

In the first instance, the school can deal directly with him and in the second instance, your kids can take the opportunity to keep up with their own homework.

What you can do is keep good records and if it is truly a problem, it may well show up in other areas that would rise to the level of a modification.

“He is disrespectful to me and teaches our children to disrespect me.  Can I keep them from visiting him?”

Short Answer:  No

In all likelihood, his disrespect is one of the reasons you are no longer together.  He was probably disrespectful during marriage, and throughout the divorce or custody case and you agreed to the visitation at that time.  Nothing has changed and this does not warrant a modification.

What you can do is work on modeling respect (even to him) for your children.

“My daughter doesn’t want to go to her Dad’s house.  Do I have to make her go?”

Short Answer:  Yes

It is perfectly normal for a child to resist going to one or the other parent’s home for visits.  In fact, many children will throw a fit when they have to go and then throw a fit at the other house when they have to come back.  If your children did not want to go to school, you would still make them go. Consider whether your child is in actual danger.  No?  She needs to visit her dad on his weekend.  Withholding visits leads to enforcement.

What you can do is let your child know that this is the way it is and that it is important to be able to spend time with both parents.  Don’t  make the situation worse by siding with your child.  Maintain a united front in this battle.

“She is just a Disney parent with no rules and my daughter is terrible when she comes back.  Do I have to keep sending her?”

Short Answer:  Yes.

Different parents have differing parenting styles.  While you may be more strict and detail oriented with a greater respect for rules, your ex may be a laid back person whose approach is more lax.  Children can be exposed to both without harm.  Being different does not mean being worse.

Remember, if you do not send your child, you are subject to enforcement.

“He takes them hunting and I don’t like guns.  Do I have to allow them to go?”

Short Answer:  Yes.

If he is a seasoned hunter and you do not like it, it is still his time with your child and his decision what to do with that time.  There may be things you do with the children that he disapproves of, but it is your time.

What you can do is discuss the situation rationally.  If he still chooses to take them hunting and it is his weekend, you have to send them or you will be open to an enforcement action.

Visitation is Important for Your Child

Visitation is not just a calendar item.  It is way for a child to develop a connection to both parents. This is critical to your child’s development unless your child is in danger.  If your ex is truly a terrible person, your child will come to terms with that and handle it himself or herself as an adult.   If you hold your child back from visits, they will also recognize that and may be resentful of you.

Of course you want to listen to your child.  And of course your child’s opinions matter.  But, when push comes to shove, you are the grown up and must make responsible and tough decisions.

Having said all of that, please understand that we know there are definitely situations where visits must and should be curtailed.  For example, if there is any abuse or if your child is in danger, contact a qualified family law attorney today.



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