Sunday, December 28, 2008

Enforcing Visitation Rights/Parenting Time

Down in Evansville, the county government created a FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions) page on Visitation Rights/Parenting Time. I think the following are good points to drag back here for emphasis. I have some comments interlaced with the original text.

"What are some steps to exercise your visitation rights?

There are a number of steps a noncustodial parent can take to exercise visitation rights:
Notice that these only "some steps."
1. Make written requests for visitation with your children on specific dates at specific times. Mail the request to the custodial parent.
The Parenting Time Guidelines require notice to set up the dates for the Summer visitation. ("4. Extended Parenting Time Notice.") I think giving this notice in writing is best but is not required. Why best? Because having a copy of the writing can be used as evidence. But otherwise, the Parenting Time Guidelines tell us how visitation/parenting time is supposed to work.

Use this suggestion when the custodial parent changes the regularly scheduled visitation.
2. If your requests cannot be honored, invite the custodial parent to propose alternative times.
See my comments to #1. At this point, have all communications in wirting and keep all of them - yours and the other side's. (See #4).
3. Let the custodial parent know that you expect a response to your request by a certain date.
A deadline is always a good idea.
4. Keep copies of your requests.

5. Send cards, letters, and gifts (but not Court ordered support) directly to your children, keeping copies of them for your records. (Always pay child support through your account in the Vanderburgh County Clerk's Support Office. If not, it will be considered a gift.)

Never, ever send child support directly. Pay it through the clerk's office. They keep a record of the payments for you.

Sending the cards and letters and gifts qualifies as significant communications which has importance under Indiana's adoption law.
6. Show up for every visitation. Let the custodial parent know in advance if you will not visit, and explain why and try to reschedule.
You know what? This is just good manners. It shows consideration not so much to your former spouse but to your children. Whatever might be your feelings towards your former spouse, they deserve a certain level of consideration just for being human beings and your children deserve more than the minimum amount of respect.

And for you custodial parents, I think the same advice applies to you and I know The Parenting Time Guidelines place this responsibility on you:
2. Adjustments to Schedule / “Make Up” Time. Whenever there is a need to adjust the established parenting schedules because of events outside the normal family routine, the parent who becomes aware of the circumstance shall notify the other parent as far in advance as possible. Both parents shall then attempt to reach a mutually acceptable adjustment to the parenting schedule.

If an adjustment results in one parent losing scheduled parenting time with the child, “make-up” time should be exercised as soon as possible. If the parents cannot agree on “make-up” time, the parent who lost the time shall select the “make-up” time within one month of the missed time.


There will be occasions when scheduled parenting times may need to be adjusted because of illnesses or special family events such as weddings, funerals, reunions, and the like. Each parent should accommodate the other in making the adjustment so that the child may attend the family event. After considering the child’s best interests, the parent who lost parenting time may decide to forego the “make-up” time.
Why is this so important? Skip to number 9 for that answer. If The Parenting Time Guidelines are just not working, they can be modified by court order.
7. Keep a diary of each effort at visitation and whether you were able to visit.
Yes! Get a calendar or one of those pocket calendar books and make notes on the calendar. Again, a suggestion that applies equally to custodial parents. Evidence matters and this can be evidence fro a modification or a contempt citation.
8. Be persistent, but polite. Do not give up. Do not take no for an answer, but do not be abusive.

9. Always obey the Court's orders."
I still find far too many non-custodial parents who do not realize that the responsibility for enforcing their parenting rights lies with them and not the court. Courts do nothing but give you a place to settle your problems. Remember that.

Read my other articles on enforcement (follow the "enforcement" link below) and remember that the parenting time guidelines are part of a court order. Violate a court order and the other side will file a contempt affidavit. That is how to get the court to enforce rights.

The FAQ also highlights another problem of not keeping in touch with your children:
What can happen if you do not remain in contact with your children?

It is important that a noncustodial parent make every effort to remain in contact with the children. If a parent fails to pay support for twelve (12) months or fails to have significant contact with the children for twelve (12) months, the custodial parent's new spouse may be able to adopt the children without the noncustodial parent's consent.

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