Sunday, May 20, 2007

What if the custodial parent interferes with visitation?

Divorce cases and paternity cases differ a bit with visitation (what is now technically parenting time). Let us start with the difference caused by paternity.

If the father and the mother were never married and paternity has not been established, the father has no legal visitation rights. Father must get an order establishing paternity from the local juvenile court. The judge will then give specific orders regarding visitation and custody.

The divorce court sets a parenting time schedule at the provisional hearing. (Unless the parents reached an agreement about visitation).

At this point, the differences between a paternity and divorce case with regards to visitation are none. If the judge has ordered visitation and the custodial parent refuses to comply, the non-custodial parent needs to get a lawyer to enforce the non-custodial parent's parenting time rights. Do not try to force the custodial parent to obey the court's order by not paying child support. It does not work that way - support and visitation are two completely separate matters.. All that happens is trouble heaped on the non-custodial parent's head.

Nor does withholding visitation because of no support help the custodial parent but that is what the rest of this post deals with. Indiana law gives us several ways to handle custodial parents who violate parenting time orders, but the most common remains contempt of court. Contempt's virtue lies in its simplicity. File an affidavit, have affidavit served on custodial parent, and after a hearing the judge can impose penalties on the custodial parent. Those penalties can range up to and include jail.

I will write more about the other remedies, but these other remedies do not replace but only supplement contempt of court.