FAQs about Child Visitation Rights

Ask most divorced parents about child visitation rights, and you're likely to hear some discontent about the situation. Either your ex isn't complying with the schedule or maybe there are more serious issues where you're worried about your child's safety.

The following answers from our experts may help you understand different aspects of your own situation.

Visitation Schedules

Child Custody and Visitation

Custodial Interference

Inconsistent Visitation

Visitation with an Absent Parent

Changing Visitation

Child Visitation Environment

Visitation Safety

Child Refuses Visitation

Custodial Parent Rights

Visitation Schedules

When do the visitation times actually begin and end?

Question: I am the supervisor for my brother's visits with his 3year old. He sees him for 2 hours on both Saturday and Sunday. Does the 2 hours start when I go get him, or does it start when I get back to my brother's house? I am asking because she threatens to get my brother in trouble, if not on time to the exact minute! I start the time when I get to his place and it ends when I leave. Thank you in advance!

Brette's Answer: Generally visitation is from drop off to pick up. If your brother feels this is not enough time, he could ask to have the time increased.

Do visitation times change if school is out?

Jacqueline's Question: I have visitation with my daughter every weekend starting Friday after school until Sunday. Her dad said if she doesn't have school then there is no visit. Technically she is out of school at 2:40pm on Friday's. If she has no school, can I still pick her up at 2:40 pm?

Brette's Answer: It sounds like you should. Pick up would be at the time school ends.

What is a realistic visitation schedule for an infant?

Rachel's Question: My daughter is 9 months old and we have been separated since before she was born. He has seen her every Sunday for 3-4 hours at my home since her birth. When she was 6 months old, he started spending 10 hours with her at my home on one of my 2 work days.

Now he wants his one weekday for 10 hours plus 3 weekends a month for 6-8 hours on both days (with a break for nap/breastfeeding). Is this a "reasonable" visitation schedule for an infant? I don't think it is best for an infant to be shuttled 160 miles round trip for visitation. It is my hope that we could change to every other weekend here at her home.

Brette's Answer: I think that is excessive for a child so young. I think it is wonderful that you've agreed he will have her one day a week while you work. What about letting him have the other day while you are at work? I think alternate weekends would be sufficient. If he comes to your house the days you are working, I think it is reasonable for her to go to his house 2 weekend days a month - that is a fair compromise. She does need to learn to go to his home and become comfortable there.

Is it true that a child can't stay overnight until they are 3 years old?

Amy's Question: Is it in any standard custody order that a child may not stay overnight with the father till they are 3 years of age? My sister-in-law is claiming this is the law and my brother is crushed so I would like to see if there is any truth to this.

Brette's Answer: Each order is different. Your brother needs to read what the court ordered in his specific order.

How do we set up visitation if he works all the time?

Linda's Question: How do we decide on custody of our 14 months old and 2 months old babies? He wants visitation rights, but he works from 6:45 AM until late depending on the company's work load. He has a son from a previous marriage who is in a special needs center in a nearby state. He is not capable of taking care of 2 babies while working long hours during the week and visiting his other son on Saturdays. Before we split, my grandparents filed charges on me for cashing checks without their permission. I have moved in with them so they can help provide for us until the case is settled.

Brette's Answer: You could do "visitation at times as agreed" which means when it works out with his schedule. You didn't mention Sundays, so maybe he is available then? I find it strange that your grandparents filed charges against you but then let you move in. Getting those charges dropped would be a good idea if your spouse is contesting your request for custody.

What is a realistic visitation schedule if he travels all the time?

MJP's Question: My son's father lives in Florida and travels extensively across the country with a professional sports organization (10 months out of the year). What is a realistic expectation of visitation set by a court? He cannot care for our son during their season, but for a few days at a time.

Brette's Answer: A visitation schedule that fits around his travel would be reasonable. Visitation at times as agreed when the father is in his home town would be one way to say it.

How can we do 50/50 visitation if his work schedule won't allow it?

Susan's Question: We've been trying to work out a 50/50 split visitation for the past month. I have a set schedule with my job, and he travels out of town with his job. He is adamant that he doesn't want to pay child support and he wants 50/50 visitation, but his work schedule is not going to allow that? And I don't have the flexibility to switch days around as my ex is requesting. How do I go about setting up a visitation schedule?

Brette's Answer: You have to just sit down with the calendar and figure out what will work. It is often hard to find a way to create a 50/50 split; so many families end up with every other weekend and then some time during weekdays.

Can I set visitation times if the decree doesn't include a set schedule?

Audrina's Question: I have a divorce decree that does not specify visitation. It simply says "Visitation will be determined between the parties". What rights does this give the children's father regarding visitation and scheduling? They live with me. Doesn't this mean I should have precedence over setting the visitation times?

Brette's Answer: When visitation is "as determined by the parties" it means you are to work out a reasonable agreement together. It does NOT mean you alone get to decide. It means you are supposed to find a way to cooperate and be reasonable with each other. If you cannot agree, you'll wind up back in court where the judge will decide for you. I highly recommend you make every effort to work something out because once it's left in the judge's hands, you'll have no say over it. Good luck.

Would a judge allow him to have visitation every weekend?

Candace's Question: The visitation order only outlines the plan for the summertime. The school year plan is supposed to be worked out by us. His only suggestion is taking the kids Friday after school and dropping them off on Monday. Would a judge really grant a mother no weekend time at all during the school year?

Brette's Answer: The most common schedule would be every other weekend plus every Wednesday night for a few hours. Every weekend with one parent is not generally done.

Can I stop him from picking up the kids during the week if it's not in the schedule?

Staci's Question: My kids reside with me and my ex has every other weekend visitation. He comes to my house anytime he wants and takes the kids and doesn’t let me know that he has them. Is there anything legal I can do to stop him from doing this?

Brette's Answer: Yes, file for a violation of the order with the court. You could also change your locks so he can't get in and make sure your child is not alone at home so he can't just come and take him. 

What does limited visitation at my discretion mean?

Tracy's Question: I was awarded sole custody almost a year ago and he was given supervised visitation. The decree states limited visitation at my discretion and I may be as protective as needed. It was a very abusive situation and a few incidents involved the children (they are still very scared of him). I've already had them in therapy, and they are in a stable environment now and very happy. When he does call, it only upsets them and they start talking about what has happened in the past. I feel it's not in their best interest to have any kind of visitation with him at all. What exactly does limited visitation mean and am I doing anything wrong regarding it?

Brette's Answer: If the court left it up to you, you should make decisions as you see fit. It means you get to decide when and how often occurs. I would recommend consulting with the children's therapist if you're not sure how to proceed.

Can a custodial grandparent refuse visitation due to drug use?

Question: I have custody of my 8 years old granddaughter (who has lived with me since birth) because neither parent was fit due to drug usage. The custody papers say both parents are to have reasonable visitation rights within my discretion. Every time she goes to see her father, I find out he has been smoking marijuana in front of her and I am concerned that his drug use will influence her. I can refuse visitation rights due to his drug usage without having to go to an attorney?

Brette's Answer: If the order says visitation is at your discretion, you can stop it at any time. Be aware he will likely file with the court to be able to continue it and then you will need to provide proof of your concerns.

What if my divorce papers say extended visitation but the court records say regular?

Dawn's Question: My divorce papers state that my ex has extended visitation, but in the court records by the court reporter it say regular visitation. How do I get this changed?

Brette's Answer: You'll have to make a motion to have the court reconcile the two. » Return to top

Child Custody and Visitation

What can I do if he doesn't return the kids after visitation?

Question: My ex and I have 50/50 custody and the children reside with me, but he regularly only takes the two oldest ones for visitation. This was his weekend, but now my ex is telling me he's not giving back my children and that he's taking me to court. What can I do?

Brette's Answer: If you have a custody order he that specifies a schedule, he has to return them. If he doesn't you can call the police or you can go to family court for enforcement. If your order does not specify a schedule, then you need to get a court-ordered schedule set so it can be enforceable.

What rights does he have with shared legal custody?

April's Question: I divorced my ex two years ago, and we have a six year old child together. My decree states that I have sole legal custody in regard to the child's best interests and party's agreement. Above that it is check-marked that we are to share legal and physical custody per "parenting plan". My son started kindergarten this year and the school says that if my ex goes to the school to pick him up, they would have to allow it. My child has no clue who he is. He has not had any contact and he also stated in court that he wanted no future contact. What rights do I have? He had his chance to get to know his child and he failed. He doesn't deserve to see him, whether or not he wants to.

Brette's Answer: Sole legal custody means you have decision making power about medical and education decisions. I don't understand how it can also say shared legal, since that is a contradiction. Shared physical custody means there should be a parenting plan established. If you don't want your ex to be able to access your child from school, you need an order that specifies when, if at all he is permitted visitation. If he has none, you need an order that says that. That will provide protection. So seek a modification. I have to tell you though I think your attitude is not the best for your child. I understand your anger and resentment; however people make mistakes and people change. It is possible to walk away from your child and realize your mistake and come back and be a real parent. Your child deserves to have two parents if possible. Good luck.

Do I have to go to parenting classes before the divorce is finalized?

Amanda Asks: My husband filed for divorce and it is currently pending. Do I have to go to parenting classes before they will finalize the divorce?

Brette's Answer: You would need to find out if this is a requirement in your state. If so, then yes, you must attend. Good luck.

What happens if one of us doesn't take the parenting class?

Gina's Question: We have filed for divorce. We are required to take a parenting class along with our 2 children. It says we have 45 days to take this class or our case could be dismissed. What happens if one of us doesn't take the class? Can we be held in contempt for not completing it?

Brette's Answer: The person who does not attend is the one who will face contempt charges. It's likely the court would give that person another chance to complete it first though. Good luck.

Should I modify visitation if he hasn't taken the parenting class?

Lajoyce's Question: When I divorced, the judge gave me physical and legal custody. He put a stipulation in the divorce for no overnights until my ex completed the parenting class for divorced parents. To date he has not completed the class but is drilling me for visits. I don't know where he lives or if he even has a car. I would like for the kids to spend some time with him and I have offered to set up visits at my mom's when he takes the class. Should I modify the visitation because he's giving me a hard time?

Brette's Answer: You don't need to do anything. He hasn't complied with the terms of the order and is not entitled to visitation, period. If you want visits to take place, keep doing what you are - offering him a safe place to see the kids. If he chooses not to accept, it's his problem.

Will my custody papers be enforced if he threatens to keep our son?

Theresa's Question: My son is 3 years old, and I have sole physical custody. His father takes him for 4 weeks each summer and lives 5 states away. He is threatening not to give him back. Will my divorce decree and custody papers be enforced in another state?

Brette's Answer: Yes they will be enforced. Based on that threat, you can seek to have his visitation reduced.

What can I do if my teenager refuses to come home from visitation?

Cindy's Question: I have sole custody of our 17 year old son. My ex of 3 years has visitation and is letting our son run around all hours of the night with no supervision. My son went to visit his dad four months ago, and refuses to come back home. What can I do, and how can I keep my son at my house. My ex lives only 2 miles away.

Brette's Answer: At age 17 there is not an awful lot you can do. Even if you go to court for violating the order and the judge orders your ex to bring him back, making your son stay is difficult. You can try going back to court if you want to try something.

Is it my father's right to see me even if I don't want to see him?

Michael's Question: My mother, who has custody, was hospitalized and I was staying at a friend's house. Is it my father's right to see me even if I don't want to see him? If so why does he say it's a must and is he lying to me? I'm only 13 so I don't know if this changes anything.

Brette's Answer: Hi Michael. I'm sorry your mom was sick and I hope she's ok. If your dad has an order that gives him the right to see you, he does have the right. And if your mom is in the hospital, he would be the one who would have responsibility for taking care of you. If you don't want to see your dad, you should talk about this with both of your parents. A lot of kids feel this way at some point, but your dad will always be your dad and it might make sense to find a way to deal with each other. If your mom ever asked the court to change the parenting plan, the judge would be interested in your opinion, but you would not get to decide if you would spend time with your dad.

Can the custodial parent decide who visits the child in the hospital?

Maria's Question: My boyfriend's daughter is very sick and will have to be in the hospital for a while. Since her mom has sole custody she often threatens my boyfriend about him not being allowed to see her at the hospital. Can the custodial parent decide who can visit child while admitted into a hospital?

Brette's Answer: It sounds like the daughter is a minor, and in that case, it is up to her custodial parent. I would suggest trying to talk with the mom in a calm and reasonable way and suggest some short visits.

What visitation rights does a parent have if a child is hospitalized?

Amanda's Question: Both parents are legal guardians with mom being custodial for schooling purposes. Father was granted limited visitation every other weekend from Saturday to Sunday with no weekday visitations. If a child is hospitalized does the father have to stay within his visitation schedule or can he visit whenever he wants?

Brette's Answer: Technically unless the order states otherwise visitation does not change, but it would be reasonable to allow the parent more access during this time.

Do I have to give him my address if I only have visitation?

Darlene's Question: I am moving 25 miles from my son who lives with his dad. His dad has sole custody and I have visitation rights, but he says I have to supply the address even though I am willing to give him phone numbers where I can be reached. He has driven by my apartment everyday several times and I will be moving in with a guy who is in my life. Do I have to give him this information?

Brette's Answer: Not unless your order requires you to give him the address. If you feel he is harassing you, then you can wait for him to take you to court and you can explain to the judge why you don't want to disclose the address. The judge might decide not to give him the address. He might also decide he can have it but could put a restraining order in place ordering him to stay away.

Can I pick up my kids if my sister-in-law has temporary custody?

Ashlie's Question: Can I legally pick my kids up from their fathers sister if she has temporary legal custody if there have been no visitation right established?

Brette's Answer: If she agrees to visitation, then yes. If she does not agree, you need to seek to have the temporary order modified to permit visitation. » Return to top

How can I get my son back if there are no custody orders?

Joyce's Question: My ex took our son on vacation and never returned him. I found out they are living in Fl. There were never any legal papers concerning custody. I was told he can do this. If I want him I can go get him. Is there a form I can file to get him back?

Brette's Answer: It sounds like you don't have a custody order at all, so you need to file for custody. Until you have a custody order, you both have equal rights to the children. You can either go to your local family court or check the state court web site. The information you need can be found there. You're looking for a petition or a complaint (it's called different things in different states). Then if he violates it, you take him back to court for violating your custody order. You also have something to show the police should he refuse to give them back to you. You don't need an attorney in family court.

Can he stop me from seeing my daughter if there is no court order?

Samantha's Question: If there is no court order in place, can one parent stop the other one from seeing the child (my daughter's father is refusing to allow me to contact her. I have been her primary care giver since birth, we have a parenting plan which he has gone against, but it was not lodged with the court)?

Brette's Answer: If there is no order of custody, each parent has an equal right to the child. You need to file an emergency petition for custody to gain immediate access it sounds like.

Can he set the visitation schedule if there are no court orders?

Gina's Question: We're separated and he told me that a judge will not decide visitation. He takes her every weekend and he keeps telling me that he will take her away from me if I do not turn her over every weekend. Please help me to understand. How can he take here away from me?

Brette's Answer: Stop listening to your husband. Go to court and get an order of custody and visitation setting out a fair schedule. It's not up to him - it's up to the court. I would also suggest you stop allowing visitation every weekend since all you're doing is setting a precedent for how visitation will continue. Good luck.

Can I control visitation if there are no custody orders?

Jess's Question: My daughter is 2 and her father's name is on the birth certificate. We have never been married and there are no custody papers, but I allow him to see her whenever he wants. He is falling back into old drug habits, and I have been told I can limit his visitation to the amount of time that I feel is in my daughter's best interest and/ or limit the visitations to supervised visits. What should I do in this situation?

Brette's Answer: You need to get an order of sole custody so that you can protect yourself. You both have rights to your child at this point and without a court order, you have a problem if he takes her and refuses to bring her home since he is also her legal parent.

What are my rights if there are no visitation orders?

Nicole's Question: I have sole custody of my 5-year old daughter. Her father pays child support, but did not request any visitation rights. Since her birth he has seen her less than eight times. Just recently he has taken an interest in seeing her. I've stipulated rules: let's start slowly with supervised visits, stick to scheduled times, etc. After only three visits, he now wants overnight visitation. He lives three hours away in a one-bedroom apartment. He is also demanding I meet him half-way for the exchange and also grant his parents additional visitation rights. What are my rights?

Brette's Answer: If there is no order giving him visitation, then legally he has none. It's up to him to go to court and ask for it. That being said, I think it's good you've been trying to work this out. Your daughter does need to have a relationship with him. It sounds like he's really making it difficult. Your rules sound reasonable to me. It needs to start slowly and he's got to be on time and show up when he's supposed to. If he doesn't agree to your terms, it's up to him to petition the court for a visitation order. Good luck.

Can I refuse visitation if I have sole custody?

H's Question: If a parent has sole custody of the child, and the other parent has visitation rights, can the parent with sole custody refuse to let the child go to see the other parent at any time?

Brette's Answer: No. If the order sets out specific visitation times, they must be adhered to. If the order does not set specific times, then visitation is at time as agreed upon. If the parties can't agree, they'll end up back in court. Refusing to agree to any visitation time is not reasonable unless there is a serious problem.

Can I refuse visitation if he's threatened to kidnap the children?

Question: My ex threatened to take our two girls and run or hide them. I did not want to risk that so I have not allowed him to see them. He abused me for years up until 2 years ago when we split up. We are now fighting for custody, but I cannot afford to get an attorney right now. Can the fact that we have a history of domestic violence help me even though it has been 2 years since he has put his hands on me?

Brette's Answer: The problem is that by denying him visitation you put yourself in a difficult position. Denial of visitation can be grounds for a change in custody. Obviously you have a very good reason for this though. You need to try to document the threat as best you can. Did anyone else hear him say this? His past domestic violence with you is an issue, but it doesn't necessarily make him an unfit parent. You really do need an attorney.

Can I refuse visitation if I feel that he is mentally unstable?

Suzanne's Question: My ex and I have a temporary visitation agreement for our three year old daughter. He has Wednesdays and every other weekend. The Wednesday visit is increasingly becoming disruptive to our child's schedule. The drop off time is too late at night, so she is wired on sugar, un-bathed and unfed at 8 PM. I have tried to discuss this with my ex, but he refuses to help or change. He also encourages her to lie to me and is verbally abusive to me on the phone and in front of our daughter. He has a long history of depression, anger management issues and is a drug user. Can I limit or refuse a visitation if I feel that he is mentally unstable and that the child's safety may be in danger?

Brette's Answer: I would suggest modifying visitation so that drop off is earlier - say 6 pm. That way they still have frequent contact, but you can control dinner and bedtime. You should be keeping a journal about every incident that occurs so that you have a record. Calling you names is not a basis to change visitation. Encouraging your child to lie is a concern however, but that's going to be very difficult to prove - 3 year olds are not reliable in any way. I think you also need to have a provision inserted that says something about schedule changes should not be denied without a compelling reason. You're in dangerous water when you ask about denying visits. You're not a mental health expert and if he doesn't have a clear medical record of issues it's going to look like you're interfering with visitation. I think you need to get an attorney whom you can sit down with and carefully go over everything that has happened, examine what kind of a record exists and talk about how to move forward in a way that will not put you in a tenuous position, but will also protect your daughter.

Can I do anything about the visitation if he's a bad influence?

Toni's Question: I have physical custody of my 6 and 8 year old children. Their dad has visitation every other weekend. Sometimes he doesn't get them, other times the kids call early and want to come home because they don't like spending time with him. If he does keep them a whole weekend, they usually go visit his ex-girlfriend for a day without him. He told my 6 year old that it was ok to skip sometimes and it was ok to quit school too. Last winter he had me take them to a psychologist because our youngest didn't like him, he blamed me. The psychologist said they were good well-adjusted kids. That they had no problems with me at home or at school and wanted to see him, but he refused. Is there anything I can do? He is being a bad influence on my children and I can't make him realize it.

Brette's Answer: I agree with you that he's not being a good role model, but nothing you've described is enough to take away his rights. I agree that they should not be spending time with his ex-girlfriend instead of with him, so that is an important point that you could use in court should it come to that. I'm glad you took them to a psychologist. I think it might be helpful for him to talk with the psychologist, who might be able to help him realize the mistakes he is making. I think you might try talking to him about whether the schedule really works for him. If he's bringing them home early a lot of the time, maybe he would like to change the schedule to just Saturday every other weekend or maybe one weekend a month. Then he might have a greater attention span when they are there and there might be more to do. His stupid comments are in fact stupid, but it's not up to you to point that out to him. You are a good role model for your girls, so continue to be that. If you need to take the kids back to the psychologist, do that, should things get worse.

What can I do if he only wants visitation with one child?

Sara's Question: My ex and I split up 2 years ago. We have a 6 year old son and a 4 year old daughter, and he has had visitation with them every other weekend. I notice a big difference in how he treats the kids (there has never been a bond between my ex and our daughter). On his last visit he contacted me very angry and told me to come get MY daughter and that he didn't want her there anymore and that she was ruining his time he spends with our son. Do I try to force the relationship with my daughter and her dad? Do I continue to allow my son to go for his visits? Obviously my biggest concern is what is best for BOTH of the kids.

Brette's Answer: You're going to have a real problem if you allow him to select one child to have a relationship with. Think how your daughter would feel when she is 8 and her brother goes on visitation and she doesn't. That would be very damaging to her, to know that her father has rejected her but chose her brother. It would also damage the relationship between the siblings. Visitation needs to be with both kids, Period. He's her father. He needs to create a relationship. He may be having trouble with her current stage of development. I think you should encourage him to continue spending time with her. One idea is to suggest he have one day with your son and one day with your daughter. Spending equal amounts of individual time can be a way to bond. Maybe you could suggest some fun things they could do together or activities that she would enjoy.

What can I do if he refuses visitation with our oldest child?

Wendy's Question: Our oldest daughter has severe epilepsy and her father said she could not come back over until she seeks counseling. Well we did that & he still will not see or speak with her. However our younger child goes to see him every other weekend & now she is starting to hate her older sister. This is killing the other child. Can I refuse to bring my youngest daughter to him on his weekend? I really don't want him to bring me to court because I cannot financially afford a lawyer right now.

Brette's Answer: I think it is hurtful and damaging that he will not see your older child. While courts cannot force visitation to take place, I think a judge would be very interested in this situation. If he is in fact trying to turn your youngest against your oldest, the court might order some counseling to get this straightened out, or in extreme circumstances, curtail visitation with the youngest.

If you refuse visitation with the youngest, you place yourself in the dangerous position of causing parental alienation (which can eventually be the basis for a change in custody). I can understand why you might not want to continue visitation. If you stop visitation, this would be a reason for him to take you back to court. You could seek to modify your visitation order yourself and you don't need an attorney - just go to Family Court.

Will it matter if he wants visitation with our child and not his others?

Catherine's Question: My ex is taking me to court for visitation. He has 2 other children (with 2 other mothers) that he has never even met. Is there anything I can do about him wanting visitation with my child and not the others?

Brette's Answer: Not really. You can certainly bring it up, but it doesn't necessarily mean he shouldn't have a relationship with this child.

Will he get visitation rights because I've filed for child support?

Leanne's Question: I recently filed for child support against my ex. I have a permanent restraining order against him because he tried to kill me and my unborn daughter. I have several police reports where he threatened to take my daughter and I will never see her again. Once she was born he attempted to gain visitation, but my attorney argued it was not in my child's best interest. It has now been 8 years. My current husband is the only father-figure my daughter has known since she was 3 months old. I am extremely scared that if the courts award visitation she will be hurt. If he tried to kill her before being born and beat me, why wouldn't he do it now? After all, he has never met or seen her.

Brette's Answer: Child support is separate from visitation. If he wants visitation he has to ask for it. The court will be very interested in the past history in this case should he ask for visitation. I can't tell you what a judge would decide. People can change a lot in 8 years, so there is the chance he might be a different person now. There is also the risk he could be a danger to your child. I think any court that would award visitation would only do so on a supervised basis to begin with. You could also petition to have his parental rights terminated and then have your current husband adopt her. Good luck.

Is there any way to make sure he doesn't get visitation?

Erika's Question: I have had sole custody of my child ever since he was 3 years old (his father signed custody over to me). When my son hit 8, his father tried to get custody and the courts found him unfit morally and I still have sole custody. It has been 3 years since that has happened and his father hasn't tried to contact him in anyway; not a phone call or anything since that has happened. Now is there anything I can do to keep him from seeing him at all?

Brette's Answer: It doesn't sound to me like you need to do anything. You have sole custody and the father has no visitation rights. There's nothing else you can get. He can always try to seek visitation again in the future but it doesn't sound like he would be successful.

Is visitation enforceable if the other parent is in assisted living?

Connie's Question: My niece is living in a nursing care facility due to an illness that prevents her from living on her own. Since this illness, her husband has divorced her and has custody of their child. He was instructed by the divorce judge to have their son visit his mother every Sunday and every other Wednesday. He only does the Sunday visits when he wants to and has never visited on Wednesday. He also will not let our family see the child. How or what can I do to see that he follows the visitation that was set up?

Brette's Answer: Your niece, or her legal guardian if she is not mentally competent, can file a petition for violation of the order. If there are grandparents, they can also file a petition for visitation for themselves, which would offer a way for the extended family to see the child.

What if my ex wants our son in daycare while he works?

Emilee's Question: I have sole custody of my 7 year old and his father has visitation. I am a stay at home mom and available to watch my son, but my ex-husband says he's going to put him in day care on his scheduled visitation when he's at work and doesn't want me watching him on those days. The court order does not directly address this issue, what is legal and what is not?

Brette's Answer: You can file a petition for modification. A court almost always prefers a child to be with a parent than in a child care situation.

Can he use his visitation to send her to her grandparents?

K's Question: My ex hasn't seen or contacted our daughter in about 4 years. Now he wants the visitation agreed upon in our divorce, but not with him- he wants her to go to his mom's house to visit for the holidays. His mom lives out of state and wants to pick her up and use HIS visitation as HER right to see our daughter. I've never denied visitation with her grandmother but lately some things have come up and we're not getting along. Can he use HIS visitation to force me to send her to his mom's house instead?

Brette's Answer: No. His visitation is for him to use. And since he hasn't seen her in 4 years, it is unreasonable for him to suddenly think he can exercise it as decided 4 years ago. I think you might want to talk to his mom yourself. It might be nice for your daughter to have a relationship with her grandmother, but this is not the way to go about it.

Does she have to go to her grandparents for visitation?

Angela's Question: My ex and I have been divorced since our daughter was 3 years old, and she is now 11. He has lived out of state since the divorce and we still live in the same area where my family & his family live. He is visiting less and less, but has his parents pick our daughter up for his visits and he does not come to see her. Our daughter has not liked going for years and even more so now. She has finally told him she did not want to go, but if needed too she would just like to visit with grandparents during the days and come home at night. He is now mad and has called his lawyer. I just would like for someone to tell me if she has to go to his parents when he does not come for visits?

Brette's Answer: Unless his parents have a grandparent visitation order, they technically have no rights. Your ex however does have rights. If your child does not wish to go, you would have to have your original order modified by the court. Her wishes would be considered and a guardian ad litem would be appointed.

I would caution you not to cut the grandparents out of the picture. If they decided to file for grandparent visitation, they could get an order giving them at least what they have now, since they have a continuing relationship with your child. It's always better to work this out amicably with them than to go to court. Why not try to talk to them about how your daughter feels? Try to work out a compromise for the time they spend with her. Also check out Handling Grandparents Visitation Rights for more tips.

If he has no visitation rights, can the grandparents allow contact?

Nicole's Question: The judgment says my ex isn't allowed visitation. I do let my son visit my ex's parents at their home. My ex will be released from jail and I worry that his mother will allow him to see our son behind my back at her home. If this happens, this will be considered a violation of the order won't it?

Brette's Answer: That would be a violation. You could talk to the grandmother and explain to her that visitation would be a violation of the court order.

What if her grandparents don't supervise her during visitation?

Ashley's Question: My ex and I verbally agreed on visitation for our child. The majority of the time, the child is with the grandparents. I have witnessed the grandparents letting the child, who is 2, run around a store unsupervised. I feel that they are putting my child's life in danger. What rights do I have when it comes to this?

Brette's Answer: There's not much you can do without some conflict. The best thing might be to try to talk to you ex and express your concerns. If he won't listen and you completely believe your child's life is in danger, then you could file for custody.

What if he drops our daughter off with his family during visitation?

Rachel's Question: If I have sole physical custody, and when he has visitation, can I make it so that he has to spend that time with her and him not pawn her off on his family?

Brette's Answer: The problem is this is a fine line. It is acceptable for him to take your daughter to visit his family during his time - when else would she see them? It's not ok for her to spend all the visitation period every single time with them and not him. You can request a modification to specify that the majority of time is to be spent with him.

Should visitation be altered if he isn't spending time with our kids?

Question: My ex recently got visitation rights every other weekend. I noticed some things that I packed for my daughter over at his uncle's house and was given the impression that the kids spent the night with him. What can I do to get my ex to spend time with his children instead of pawning them off on his uncle? There is also drug use at his Mom's house. My son has even demonstrated how you take a blunt and roll it up and then smoke it. I have temporary custody of the kids as for right now, and there is a restraining order on him. How will this impact custody of the kids?

Brette's Answer: What you've shared is definitely concerning. I think you need to file a motion to have visitation altered. If he is not actually spending time with your daughter, then he needs to be ordered that visitation time is to be spent with him. The smoking incident is a serious problem. You need to ask to have a law guardian or guardian ad litem appointed to look into this situation and report back to the court. It sounds like you need a full hearing where you can call witnesses and present evidence. You are going to need people to come in and testify to this. For example, his uncle will need to be subpoenaed about whether the child is staying with him during visitation.

Can I request he take my other child for visits even if she isn't his?

M's Question: My 3 year old daughter doesn't want to go with her dad unless her half-sister goes. In the past she would go, but now he says "no she's not mine", which I understand. But he has been in her life since she was 3 and now she's 8. Can I request that he take her once in a while to make her little sister feel comfortable?

Brette's Answer: He has no obligation to your oldest child and no court could require him to take her on visits. If you can talk with him and work this out on your own, that would be great.

Do siblings have visitation rights?

Kris's Question: My dad has been divorced from his ex for many years. They decided it was better on the kids if he didn't see them ever again, so I do not know my half siblings. I am trying to find them and it seems to me there are probably rights of the divorced adult children. Am I correct?

We have found my dad's ex. I thought perhaps if I was aware of the laws governing divorce in her state and governing the children I might have some leverage with her if I do decide to contact her. Could she do something legal against us for trying to contact her or her kids?

Brette's Answer: The sibling relationship is an important one. Few states have laws that automatically give rights to siblings, though. You can read about the few that do here: http://www.divorcesource.com/research/dl/visitation/97may85.shtml.

The problem in your case is that you have absolutely no relationship with these children at all, since you say you've never met them. In a situation where you already established a bond, a court would be much more likely force visitation.

I think the best way to handle this would be to contact their mother in a friendly and non-threatening way and say you would like the opportunity to know them. If you call her up and start quoting legal precedents, you're going to put her on the defensive. Instead, call and be non-threatening. Make it clear you don't want to intrude or make things difficult, that you're not involved in whatever happened between her and your father, and would like a chance to get to know your siblings. The friendly approach is the way to go with this one.

Is there any way I can see my half-sisters?

Kortni's Question: I have moved out of my mother's house to come live with my father. I am 18 and she will not let me see my two half-sisters. Is there any legal way to see them?

Brette's Answer: You could file a petition in family court for sibling visitation. This is a tricky area and it will depend on whether or not there is precedent in your jurisdiction.

Should my boyfriend be seeing his kids every day of the week?

Kelly's Question: My boyfriend has told his wife he wants a divorce, but he continues to go to her house every time his girls cry for him. They are only 4 and 6. Am I being selfish or is he wrong to run there every day of the week?

Brette's Answer: The kids are at a vulnerable age right now and the separation is probably difficult for them. If he wants to be an involved father, it's good that he's willing to make time for them when they need him (although he should not let it become a situation where his kids call all the shots). It's also a good idea since it will help him obtain a better parenting arrangement if he shows he wants to be involved.

Have they come to spend time at your house or wherever he is living? That should be part of the transition. As they become more accustomed to seeing him somewhere else, the separation anxiety should ease. I think you need to be careful not to frame this as a choice between you and his kids, because I can guarantee you will lose. Instead, why not try to be supportive? Invite them over, get to know them and try to become a part of their lives. This difficult time will pass if everyone can have some patience. Getting to know the wife and developing a civil relationship with her is also a good idea. Good luck. » Return to top

Custodial Interference

We share custody, but he won't let me see the kids unless he is there.

Katie's Question: My ex-husband and I have 50/50 joint custody, but my kid's primary residence is his home. He is mad at me because I won't get intimate with him, so now he won't let me see my kids unless he is there. Their grandmother watches them during the day. If I go pick them up at their grandmas, can he turn me in for kidnapping?

Brette's Answer: If he is interfering with your right to visitation, then you should file a violation in court. Doing this is called custodial interference and can be the grounds for a change in custody. If you pick them from his mother's house, he cannot say you kidnapped them if you are exercising your court ordered visitation rights. I think you need to go back to court to get this straightened out.

Can he restrict visitation if it's not in the separation papers?

Jessica's Question: My friend's ex won't let her have the kids at her house without him or his mom supervising her. There is nothing in their separation papers saying that she has to be supervised at all. Can he stop her from picking up the kids?

Brette's Answer: If the order does not require supervision, he cannot stop her from having visitation. If he will not give her the children, she can file for a violation and enforcement with the court.

Can he change the requirement that I be present for visitation?

Lisa's Question: I have sole physical and legal custody of our children 15, 18, 25. The children requested that I be present at the time of visitation, which was documented and signed by my ex and signed on the final judgment. I hadn't even heard from him for the last 2 months. He is now insisting that he see my son 15 without me present and that he can have this enforced by the courts. He also set up a mediation session without my consent and is verbally forcing me to comply with this appointment. Do I have to comply with this?

Brette's Answer: If the judgment says you must be present he can't change that without your consent. He can't compel you to go to mediation, only the court can do that.

What are the legal ramifications if he's denied me visitation for 7 years?

Jo's Question: My ex and I have split custody of our children, but he has denied me access to my son for 7 years. He is now 12 years old and I have attempted to have contact with him, but his dad refuses. He has told our son that his current wife is his mother and there is no trace in his life of me ever existing. I just want to see my son. I have filed a motion to reverse the conservatorship and a motion for temporary orders, but what are the legal ramifications for such behavior out of the other parent and is it likely that my son will be returned to me?

Brette's Answer: Custodial interference is grounds for a change in custody. It sounds like you're in a good position to get a change.

How can I enforce my scheduled visitation?

Annie's Question: My ex hasn't been following the decree and won't let me see my kids for the 12 days a month I am allowed by the decree. How do I legally to enforce this?

Brette's Answer: File for enforcement and violation of the order. Custodial interference like this can also be grounds for a change in custody. For best results, talk to an attorney.

What can I do if he's alleging that I denied visitation?

Paige's Question: My husband's attorney is filing a contempt of court saying I denied visitation, which is not true. He did not show up, and this is documented. What can I do to prove my openness to the visits?

Brette's Answer: If you have any witnesses - people who were there when he didn't show up, they could testify for you. What you need to be careful about is the fact that his not showing up doesn't quite prove your case. He could be alleging you told him not to come and therefore he did not. It's going to hinge on what evidence he has. This is going to come down to a he said she said situation and the judge is going to decide who is more believable. If you can show a pattern of him missing visits, that would be helpful. If you can show via a calendar or journal that you were home waiting for him for each visit, that would help. You can tell the judge how important you believe visitation is and how think it is important for your kids to have a relationship with their father and that you would never stand in the way of that.

What if he filed court papers saying I violated the visitation order?

Koal's Question: After out divorce, my ex would have visitation when he felt like seeing the kids. But he hasn't seen them in 2 years and the youngest has NO idea who he is. He has a very long abusive record, and at this point I am terrified for my kids to be with him. He has filed papers saying I'm in violation of a court order saying I DON'T let him see them. That's not true at all because he hasn't asked to see them in 2 years. What should I do?

Brette's Answer: Tell the judge the truth. Ask for a law guardian to be appointed to represent the children.

What can I do if he's accusing me of alienating the children?

Julie's Question: My children's biological father has alienated himself from my kids (he has not seen them in over three years) and is attempting to shift the blame onto me by falsely accusing me of what sounds like PAS. Do you have any ideas on how to handle this?

Brette's Answer: If have kept a journal or diary that would support your case. Witnesses who can testify about what you told them about your intentions or who saw you trying to make arrangements with him would be helpful. If your kids are old enough they can talk to the judge about what they know about the situation as well. You could subpoena phone records to show he's never called, print out emails where you've have attempted to contact him or which he has sent you.

What if he does not allow phone call while our son is with him?

Shandar's Question: We have joint custody of our 7 year old son. My ex lives in a different state and new wife will not allow me to talk to my son on the phone. If this is going on, can I get full custody back of my son? She gets involved and I don't know what to do.

Brette's Answer: You should be keeping a log of the phone calls which are denied. If your ex and his wife are interfering with your custodial rights to stay in contact with your child it could be grounds for a change in custody. Good luck.

Can I still call my kids if visitation was suspended?

Dawn's Question: My visitation rights were suspended. Does that include phone calls or am I allowed to call them?

Brette's Answer: Unless you have a no contact order, you should be able to have phone calls.

Do I have a right to contact my son if he has custody?

Wendy's Question: Can my ex-husband keep my son from talking to me and seeing me if he has custody? There is no visitation set by the courts. He has blocked all phone numbers and I can't even call him to check on my son. Is he allowed to keep all contact from me?

Brette's Answer: If your order does not give you any visitation or specifically states you can have phone contact, then you don't have that right. You can file to modify the order, asking for the right to contact.

What if he won't allow our daughter to contact me?

Sylvia's Question: I am the custodial parent of our 9 year old daughter and she has just started her 30 day summer visitation. I got her a cell phone in an effort to be able to have contact with her during visitation. Last night she sent me a text saying her father will not let her call me. After reviewing my court ordered custody agreement, there is no wording about contact, other than neither of us is allowed to deny access. What should my next step be? I do not want to ask her to go against her father, but she should also not feel like she cannot contact me.

Brette's Answer: You can try to talk to your ex. You don't want to say you've had contact with her, but say you're concerned because you're trying to reach her and can't. Try to arrange for reasonable phone contact. If he won't agree, you have to go back to court. Your order needs to be clearer about what "contact" means. Good luck. » Return to top

Inconsistent Visitation

What if my ex keeps letting my son down?

Wanda's Question: My ex often doesn't show up for visitation and doesn't call our son. He said that he doesn't show up because our son has an attitude with him. What's worse is that he won't answer the phone when my son calls him, and won't return my son's calls. What can I do so that it doesn't affect my son?

Brette's Answer: I know that it is hard to deal with this kind of thing when you think your ex is being a jerk, but as you've seen, this kind of situation is difficult for your son. I would suggest you ask your ex to meet you for coffee. Sit down together in a friendly way and try to find out what the problem is. Is the visitation time inconvenient? Is there a better time? Have he and your son had problems? Try to get to the root of the problem then try to find a solution that will work for both of you.

Can I keep the kids away from him if he doesn't use visitation?

Stephanie's Question: The girls are supposed to go to their fathers every other weekend. Lately he is coming up with excuses for not taking them. If I just keep them away from him will I get in trouble?

Brette's Answer: You have to make them available for the scheduled visitation. If it gets to the point where he does not exercise it at all or very rarely, you can petition the court to modify the order.

What if he always cancels visitation at the last minute?

Eva's Question: My ex and I have been trying to work out the every other weekend thing, but he commonly calls the night before HIS weekend to say that he has to work late (voluntary over time) and can't take the kids. This isn't fair and I always have to change my plans to accommodate him. Can I tell him he can't get the kids until the court hands down the schedule since he is dictating visitation at his convenience?

Brette's Answer: I think you should have a calm and non-confrontational discussion with him about what you just told me. Explain to him that you have plans also and it's not fair for him to call you the night before with a schedule change. Set up a rule about schedule changes - agree they must be made 3 days in advance (or whatever works for you). Stopping visitation is not the answer - you're punishing your children then for his stupidity. Instead, try to set up some guidelines you can both follow. Tell him that visitation is very important and you really want to make it work.

His new job makes our visitation schedule unpredictable.

Rebecca's Question: Our son has visited his Dad every Wednesday night and every other weekend for the past 3 years. My ex now has a new job with an unpredictable work schedule and often has to cancel Wednesday nights at the last minute. He is often late for pick-ups, and is unpredictable about drop-off times. He calls last minute for a visit, and then is 2 hours late picking my son up. I want to work with my Ex, but it is tough on both me and my son. I can't plan weekends, holidays or vacations in advance. How do I get my son back on a schedule without blocking a relationship with his father?

Brette's Answer: I can understand your frustration. Maybe the way to do this is to schedule visits regularly and if he is working, the visit is cancelled, rather than giving you a last minute notice that there is going to be one. At least this way you would know your son will definitely be home on certain days and may be gone on others. The lateness is a problem though and I would suggest you talk to him about that. He needs to stick to the schedule and if you can't work that out on your own or in mediation, you'll have to go back to court and have the court tell him.

Can he pick them up and drop them off whenever he feels like it?

Question: We have a temporary visitation court order. It states he has kids from 4-8 on Tues and Thurs and every other weekend from 5 on Friday to 5 on Sunday. Out of the 6 weeks so far, he has only had them 4 of the Tuesdays and Thursdays and he was late getting them every time. He never calls, he just never shows up. He has never had them on his weekend; however he always tries to get them for a "short time" during Saturday. He thinks that if it "his weekend" he can pick them up and dropped them off whenever he feels like it. Am I legally obligated to let him pick them up at a later time when he just "shows up"? Advise please...

Brette's Answer: No. Sounds like you need to go back to court to get the order modified to reflect what is actually happening. It's not healthy for the kids to sit around waiting for him all the time.

What can you do if your ex doesn't fulfill his visitation requirements?

Anne's Question: What do you do when an ex won't fulfill his visitation requirements? He never sees the children, even though two different children therapists have met with him to stress the importance of structure. He only wants them when it suits him, and of course to take them 2 weeks in the summer to visit grandparents they only see once a year. He is now refusing to allow me to take them on any type of trip anywhere! My lawyer tells me that he is holding me hostage and I need to take him back to court. She also says that there is no way to force him to fulfill his visitation.

Brette's Answer: Your lawyer is right. You can't force someone to use their visitation time. It sounds like you have bent over backwards to try to get him to stay involved and it's unfortunate that it hasn't worked. You're a good parent for trying to keep him involved in your kids' lives. I agree that you can't let him dictate what you do. You should be allowed to travel with your children and the court would certainly allow that. As to whether or not he should be able to take the kids to visit his parents, you need to do what you think is best. It's good for children to know their grandparents, but this kind of once a year contact can be difficult. What does the therapist think about it? I would want to get that information before making a decision if I were you. Going back to court is always difficult for children, but it sounds like the current situation is also difficult for everyone.

What can I do if he's not following the visitation schedule?

Michele's Question: Recently, my ex has become very inconsistent with the pick-up times. He stated the visitation schedule is for him and not for me to have time to myself, so he will do what he wants to do and I have to deal with it. Is there anything I can do, or do I just have to accept that he won't care for her when he has agreed to in our court order, and either cancel my plans for career advancement or try to find and pay for someone else to care for her?

Brette's Answer: Unfortunately there is no way to enforce this. He is right that he is not required to spend time with her, however in your situation I think you might be able to work something out where he pays for child care. I think you should go to mediation and try to sort this out. » Return to top

Visitation with an Absent Parent

Is the visitation order still in effect if he hasn't seen our child for years?

Darlene's Question: My ex and I have joint custody of our 5 year old daughter. When she turned 1, my ex stopped wanting anything to do with her. Recently he sent me a message saying since he is paying child support that he wants to see her. He expects me to leave my daughter with him when she doesn't even know him. What are my rights since he has not had any contact with my daughter in over 4 and half years? Is the old court order still in effect?

Brette's Answer: It is unless you seek to modify it. So that's what you should do. You can file for a modification of the existing order based on the situation as it has existed. You need a gradual reintroduction here. I strongly advise you consult with an attorney to explore these options.

How do I handle visitation if my 9 month old doesn't know her Dad?

Amelia's Question: I have a 9 month old baby and her father just now started to contact me. He lives 5-7 hours away from me and he wants visitation. She has never seen her father and need to know the best way to handle this.

Brette's Answer: It's usually best to start visitation slowly. With a baby this young, visitation would normally start in your home, so you could show him how to care for her and help her feel comfortable. It would gradually increase to a few hours and then eventually to an overnight. And then gradually to alternate weekends.

Do I have to allow visitation if he hasn't seen our son for 7 months?

Pam Asks: I was awarded sole custody of my 2 year old son this spring. He never sticks to any arranged visitation we set up and he has not seen his son in 7 months. Now he wants me to "hand our son over" when it is convenient for him. Do I have to let him visit our son?

Brette's Answer: If there is no indication in the order about visitation, you're not required to do anything. However, I would caution you against denying all contact since parental alienation can be justification for a change in custody. Instead, try to work out some short visits at a time and place you feel comfortable with.

How do I help my child understand her father's absence?

Darlene's Question: My daughter is almost 5 years old and she has not seen her dad in almost a year now and really misses him. How do I let her understand that even though that her dad does not call or come and visit with her, that he may still love her? I want to let her know that I am here for her and I will not leave her side. How do I explain to my daughter the best I can that she is not alone even though she does not see her dad.

Brette's Answer: I know you're in a tough position and I think it's wonderful you want to help your daughter through this. You're on the right track. You have to tell her that he loves her and she is important to him, but there may be reasons neither of you know about that are preventing him from visiting her. Don't make anything up, but be honest that you just don't know why. Tell her it is not her fault and she has not done anything that is keeping him away. Remain positive when you talk about him as much as possible and stress that sometimes adults have problems that happen in their lives that take time to work through. Tell her how important she is to you and how much you love her. It might help her to see a therapist. In the end, this is going to be an issue she has to work through and if he ever reappears it will be on his shoulders (don't tell her that of course).

What are my kid's rights if their father has been absent for 6 years?

Crystal's Question: Ex-husband has not visited his children for six years. He does pay child support. He is now claiming I kept him from the children, yet they go to the same school as his other children do, and his mother visits them on a regular basis. The children are 14 & 16 and do not want to visit him because he is a stranger to them. What legal rights do the children have?

Brette's Answer: Unfortunately the system is not built around what the children's rights are. If he hasn't visited in 6 years yet his mother does and he has access to the children, he's put himself in a pickle. The kids are old enough that what they want will be very important to the court. It sounds to me as if he doesn't have a leg to stand on.

Can I prevent the visit if he hasn't seen our son for over 2 years?

Shannon's Question: It has been 2 1/2 years since my 4 year old son has seen his father. His father calls out of the blue and wants to see him. What should I do and is there anything I can do to stop him? He pays child support off and on, but I would gladly give it up.

Brette's Answer: Your son needs to have a relationship with his father. He hasn't seen him for 2 years, yet it sounds like your ex has attempted to make contact and you have discouraged him. The more he sees him, the stronger their bond will be. I would suggest you encourage your ex to come spend some time with your son at your home or that of a relative, so that they can become reacquainted with each other. Encourage your ex to make regular visits. Explain to him how important it is for your son to have a father in his life.

If you drive him away, you will one day have to answer to your son. At some point he is going to want to know his father and will find him on his own. His father may then tell him that you kept them apart. That's a tough one to explain.

Would he get visitation without the kids knowing him first?

Danielle's Question: I have 3 children ages 10, 9 and 5. My ex hasn't seen the older 2 since Christmas five years ago and he has never seen the youngest. He is threatening to take me to court for visitation because his child support is going up. I don't mind if he sees the kids but I want it to be supervised first for a while. Would they just give him my kids without them knowing him first?

Brette's Answer: I think what you want is a gradual visitation program. Start with him coming to your home for an hour. Then make it two hours. Then leave them alone (go for a walk or in another room). Work up to him taking them out to lunch then to his place and so on.

How is visitation handled when the kids don't know their father?

Amy's Question: My daughter is six and my ex never tried to have visitation with her in the past. Now all of a sudden, he wants to start having her every other weekend, split holidays, and one evening a week. He lives 2 hours away, and she doesn't know him at all. How likely is it that the judge will let him start having her every other weekend?

Brette's Answer: The judge will look at the entire situation, including his relationship with her and make a decision based on that. In general, it is a good thing for children to have relationships with their fathers; however I can understand your concern about too much too soon. If you are concerned, you need to be prepared to show he has no real relationship with her. If you have concerns about his ability to care for her, you need to share those. You should request that a Law Guardian or Guardian ad litem be assigned to the case. This is an attorney who will represent your daughter and give the court her perspective.

It's likely the court would order a gradually increasing schedule that would allow her to get to know him over a period of time. For example, overnights would not make sense for many months. In situations like this you would want to start visitation gradually, with you present if possible. If you can show her that you are willing to accept him, she may be more willing to. It takes time to build a relationship and everyone has to be patient. She is not going to accept him immediately but she's young and there is time for them to get to know each other. Children adapt more quickly than you might expect however, so a few visits like this should be sufficient. Then I would do some visits at his home for a few hours and gradually increase them.

My daughter just met her real Dad and is afraid to visit him.

Jessica's Question: My 10 year old daughter just met her biological father 5 months ago, and they are attending supervised visitations. My daughter does not want to continue seeing him because she is scared of him and want no contact with him. What advice can you give me?

Brette's Answer: If I were the Law Guardian in your case, I would want to find out why she is afraid of him. What has happened? Is this due to something that happened in visitation or is it a reaction to the way that you feel about the visitation? I would recommend some therapy sessions to get to the bottom of it and possibly bring Dad into the sessions to try to develop a healthy relationship.

There's no question that suddenly meeting your father at age 10 and then going to a strange place for supervised visits is going to be really difficult for a child. That however, is not enough of a reason to cancel the visitation. Instead, you need to find a way to help her through it. I really think therapy is the answer. It takes time to develop a relationship with a parent you've never met before. You should talk to him about this and find a way to work together to make things better for her. Good luck.

Does my son have to visit his dad if there's been no contact for years?

Angela's Question: I separated from my son's father due to his drinking and drug abuse when my son was 2 years old. Initially, he had some contact with our son, but it was always sporadic. I have since moved and am in a relationship with another man who he calls dad. In my son's own words, my ex is his biological father and my new partner is his real dad because he does things with him and is here for him all the time. Last week I got a letter basically asking for contact with my son and offering to start paying child support. My son is 12 years old and he said he did not want to see his dad. What should I do?

Brette's Answer: There are several considerations. First of all, your son's wishes are important and because of his age, they will be considered by the court. As the parent though, you need to think about your son's future and what the implications are for him to have no relationship with his biological father. This is often detrimental for children. It's important to understand that the bond your son has with your partner is wonderful and sounds so healthy for him, but having some contact with his biological father won't impact that. He can continue to have that bond and still have some kind of contact with his biological father.

If you and your son do not want any contact, you need to hire an attorney and go to court and present your case. It's likely the judge will talk to your son to get his input. The court will make a decision that is in the best interest of your son. Courts generally do not suspend all visitation rights unless there is a serious emotional or physical danger to the child. I'm very concerned about the substance abuse issue, and this is something you definitely need to bring up in court. If he is still addicted, it may not be safe for your child to be with him.

I understand how difficult it is to feel like a man has completely abandoned you and your child and left the entire child-rearing to you, and then to have him suddenly show up and want to be involved. It can feel very frustrating and can seem like a huge imposition. You're right to be angry and upset, but as a parent you need to think about your son and his needs. It's also normal for your son to feel abandoned and angry, but you can't change the fact that this man is his father. At some point your son will need to confront that and deal with it. He deserves the chance to know this man and to make an educated decision about whether he wants him in his life.

If you end up with court-ordered visitation, I highly recommend that your son see a counselor. No matter how this turns out, he is going to need help dealing with his mixed emotions.

Do I have to allow visitation if he didn't follow the re-introduction plan?

S's Question: My daughter just met her father after 13 years. We now have a visitation plan in order and he's supposed to visit her in our town 4 times before she's allowed to go to the state where he lives for four weeks. He hasn't made any of the visits here and he wants me to send her down. Would I get in trouble by not following the visitation plan?

Brette's Answer: If the plan was set up that he must visit her first, and he hasn't, then he's the one who has screwed it up.

Should I allow my son to see his dying Dad after no visits for years?

Cathy's Question: My ex-husband is supposedly dying; court orders are that my ex is supposed to do supervised visitation, but he hasn't followed through on this in years. Our son is 16. What do I do--deny my ex-husband, or give my son a chance to see his father before his father dies? Please note that my ex-husband has threatened me in the past when I tried to work with him.

Brette's Answer: The first issue would be your son's safety. If he would be safe, then this really should be up to him. He is old enough to decide.

Can he regain visitation rights after he lost them 6 years ago?

Tanya's Question: My 15 yr. old daughter doesn't want to have visitation with biological father. His visits were taken away 6 years ago and he is asking for visits again. What age can she voice her opinion on not going if court orders visits again?

Brette's Answer: You should make it clear before there is an order that she doesn't want to go. The court may appoint a guardian ad litem to represent her. Part of your response should be that the child does not wish to go and is a teenager. I can't predict what will happen, but in general courts try to maintain a relationship between a father and his children. If he got any visitation it would be slow and gradual.

Can he get visitation after he gets out of prison for child abuse?

Brittany's Question: My daughter is 3 years old and her father has never had anything to do with her. I have soul custody and visitation was as both parties can agree upon, but he never called me for visitation. He is currently in prison for attempted rape of a 14 year old and is due to get out within the next 6 months. If he asks for visitation this time what should I do? I do not feel comfortable letting him take my daughter.

Brette's Answer: You should tell him no. Under your order, you don't have to agree to visitation. If he has a problem with that, it's up to him to petition the court to modify the order, which would seem unlikely since he's now a convicted child abuser. » Return to top

Changing Visitation

Can we change visitation to make up for losing the mid-week visit?

Lisa's Question: We see my step daughter every other weekend and every other Wednesday for dinner. My husband's ex got married and moved away. It is an hour and 1/2 one way drive for visitation. It is getting to be too much for my step daughter and for the adults to drive on Wednesday visits now. If we take out our Wednesday visits, what options do we have to make up for all this lost time? We are trying to work this out without lawyers but his ex likes to play the card that she gives us extra time which is not true. If she lets us pick her up an hour early she always says she gets to pick her up an hour early.

Brette's Answer: You could extend the current visits - pick her up on Friday night instead of Saturday and keep her till Sunday. Or add a few hours onto Saturday or Sunday. That seems to be a reasonable way to handle it. Increasing time over the summer or school breaks is another option. Keep a log so you can prove she's not giving you extra time now. Good luck.

Can I cancel visitation if my son is sick and has diarrhea?

Sandy's Question: My son has picked up fever and diarrhea and he doesn't feel well. Can I cancel his Sunday visit with his Dad due to him being really sick?

Brette's Answer: Illness is a reason to cancel visitation.

Is visitation thru Monday morning wise if he lives 2 hours away?

Anna's Question: My ex relocated almost 2 hours away. He used to see our son two times a week for 3hrs and every other weekend from Friday night to Sunday at 6pm. Now he is asking to spend midweek overnight with our son and pick him up on Friday and drop him off Monday morning. How is this going to affect our son? Another thing is that he wants his parents or girlfriend to pick our son up. Our son has regularly been picked up by his father even with this new relocation. I don't like changing what has been going on regularly. Do I have the right on this?

Brette's Answer: It will be up to the court to decide what will be allowed if you can't agree. You did not mention how old your son is and that is going to be a huge factor in this. If he is school age, I would say a Monday morning return is not a good idea. First of all, he's going to have to get up early to get to school and what if they get stuck in traffic. You want your son to sleep at home the night before school when possible, so a Sunday evening return makes more sense. In that same vein, I don't think a midweek overnight visit is smart either for the same reasons.

If your son is not school age yet, there can be more flexibility about this. He's essentially asking to go from every other weekend to every weekend and that is not fair to you, so I would suggest sticking with every other weekend.

As for pick-ups, if you are comfortable with his parents driving, that seems like a good solution. The girlfriend is not as good of an answer since she's not permanent yet (they aren't married). I generally don't like to get non-relatives involved in custodial arrangements if it can be avoided.

Is it reasonable if he wants visitation every school break plus summer vacation?

JJ's Question: My ex lives about 2 hours away and has the kids every other weekend. He picks them up on Saturday mornings because it past their bed times on Friday by the time he finishes work and gets here. He wants me to drive them to his home on Friday nights so he can have more time with them. Is that reasonable? Also, we alternate holidays. He is requesting to have them all summer vacation and on every school break. Is that reasonable?

Brette's Answer: Asking you to share transportation could be reasonable, but it depends on everything else that is happening. Giving all holidays and the entire summer to one parent is generally not done.

What if he's demanding more visitation than the court orders?

Monica's Question: Before our court hearing, I tried to reach an agreement with my ex but he wouldn't agree. At court "for the stability of the little girl" the judge gave me sole custody on a temporary basis while a parental evaluation is done. The judge also ordered us to work together on an agreement regarding parenting time and if we did not agree, visitation would be every other weekend from Friday 6pm until Monday morning. Since he is not working during the mornings, he is demanding that I drive my baby daily to his house in addition to what the judge ordered (every other weekend). So now, she will spend 50% of the time with him. What can I do?

Brette Answers: Here's the problem about the way you're looking at this. HE doesn't get to tell YOU how this is going to work out. The judge has already clearly said if you can't agree, you're going to get a visitation schedule dictated by law. It doesn't sound like you're agreeing, so that's all you're required to comply with right now.

I am all for cooperating, compromising and making time for both parents, but you've been bending over backwards here and it has to stop. You've got to play some hard ball now. It sounds to me as if you're ok with an arrangement that has her with him instead of daycare when he's not working - and that is terrific. It's always better for a child to be with a parent than at daycare. However, you're letting him manipulate you. Put your foot down and say you will not agree to his requirement that you drive. The judge is on your side here. Tell him exactly what you will agree to and remind him that if he does not agree, he's only going to get the minimum visitation. He'll see the error of his ways pretty quickly. Good luck.

Can he get a modification because I let him have extra visitation?

Amanda's Question: It is in our divorce papers that he gets to see our daughter every other weekend. But I allow him to have her every Thursday and every other weekend. He is now trying to bully me into giving up more of my days. If he takes me to court, is it likely that he'll receive more days?

Brette's Answer: It is likely the order would be updated to include the schedule you have been following. Whether more time would be granted would depend on what the court sees as in the best interest of your child.

Can I change the visitation schedule if I have the right to determine where my daughter lives?

G's Question: I got divorced a year ago, with a joint managing conservator's agreement and a 50/50 visitation split. I am the one however, with the right to determine where my daughter lives. Does that mean I can change that visitation schedule too?

Brette's Answer: No. They are two completely different things.

How can I get a better visitation schedule?

Carla's Question: I have been in and out of my son's life since he was little. His father was very abusive to me and I had no evidence of this except my mental state. When we divorced I didn't have a lawyer, so he received full custody and I pay child support. My visitation is only for 2 hours for 2 nights a week. Which I am uncomfortable with, considering he still yells at me and tells me I am worthless and doesn't think I should see my child. He lives 2 hours away from me as well and that's a very hard schedule to keep. I know I've messed up in the past, but I have to find a way to get better visitation.

Brette's Answer: You need to show a change in circumstances to get a change in visitation most of the time. So, showing that you are now more stable, better prepared to parent, and have improved your life since you were last in court are things you can offer. You could also take a parenting class, often offered free through state funded agencies, which would show your commitment and parenting ability. I agree that having visitation with your ex present is probably not a good idea. In the meantime, you could ask if there is someone else who could supervise, maybe a relative or friend. There are also some supervised visitation programs through organizations like the United Way that could help you.

Can I get more visitations without disclosing my medical condition?

Pam's Question: Can a judge order me to disclose my medical records if I want to extend my visitation with my son. I am on social security due to a viral meningitis attack I had 3 years ago. I do have a seizure disorder, but my visits are supervised by my spouse 100%. What argument can I use to object to the disclosure of my medical records? Our child is almost 6 years old.

Brette's Answer: If the reason your visitation was limited was due to your medical condition, then if you want to have the visitation changed, you most likely need to prove the medical situation is no longer an issue, which would mean you have to disclose them.

What is the correct way of changing the visitation percentage?

Angie's Question: My daughters stay with me 4 nights and with their dad 3 nights. Only 2 afternoons out of those 3 days are actually spent with him due to work. By Saturday at 3am he is gone to work. But he won't let me pick them up early even though he is not there? What will be the correct way of changing the percentage? By the days they stay at his place or the actual time he spends with them?

Brette's Answer: Include the actual schedule, not the percentage.

What forms do I need to revise the visitation schedule?

Chelsea's Question: I just wanted to know if there was a form I could fill out to revise the visitation schedule in our divorce decree.

Brette's Answer: Check with your family court office or their web site. You need to file a petition for modification.

Can he change visitation without a court order?

Josie's Question: My daughter has custody of her seven year old daughter and her ex sees her every Wed., every other Mon. and every other weekend. He now is telling his daughter that since he just rented a two bedroom house with an attic for a playroom that he feels it is fair that she lives one week at his house and one week at her mother's. Can he do this without the court order being changed?

Brette's Answer: No he may not alter the court ordered visitation unless the mother is in agreement. If he wants it changed, he has to go to court and request a modification. If he violates the court order by not returning the child she can call the police and/or file for a violation of the order.

Can I get in trouble for not going to court to modify visitation?

Latika's Question: My son is now 8 and I am the custodial parent. I remarried five years ago and two years ago we moved out of state for my husband to have a better job. My ex wasn't happy about the move, but he reluctantly agreed and did not file to stop me from moving. He has visitation rights every other weekend but I am unable to comply with those terms since I live 4 hours away. He still sees our son whenever we go back to that state and I try to give him holidays and summers. Can I get in trouble for not going to the court to modify visitation and do I still need to go back to the courts to get relocation and visitation modifications?

Brette's Answer: It is not breaking the law to do something different than the plan states if you both agree to it. It's always best to have an up-to-date order, but if your ex has complied so far you probably have nothing to worry about.

What can we do if the child is miserable due to visitation?

Jackie's Question: My husband and I have joint custody of our 10 year old great nephew. He has been at our home all of his life. At age 5 we went to court and got joint custody with the father. He gets him every weekend and in the summers. This child is miserable every time he has to go there. His mother is out of the picture. He has told us that he wishes sometimes he was dead. He only wants to stay here with us. Is there anything we can do?

Brette's Answer: You can petition to have the schedule modified. Maybe if he didn't have to go every single weekend and all summer he might be able to cope a little better. I also think you need to get this child into counseling. It is not normal for a 10 year old to wish he were dead. I am very concerned about him. Good luck.

Can visitation be changed I have pay for all my child's expenses?

A's Question: I have had physical custody of my 7 year old daughter since she was 3 months old. My ex is against her playing sports and grudgingly brings her to the games when she's with him. But every year it is a big battle. He lives 2 hours away, so it's hard on our daughter and she does not want to go up and see him. She goes up every other weekend and we split holidays. He pays child support but does not help me with anything else. How can I go about changing the court order so she doesn't have to go up all the time? He doesn't want to be involved in anything his child is doing and is not even providing insurance and making me pay and handle everything.

Brette's Answer: If he pays his ordered child support that is his only financial responsibility. If you feel it is not enough, you can ask to have it modified upwards, or to include certain expenses. It's important for your daughter to maintain a relationship with him and just because the visitation is a hassle for you doesn't mean it isn't good for her. I suggest you talk to an attorney if you want to modify the plan because you will need a lot more than just a general dissatisfaction to convince the court.

Can visitation be decreased if I change my work schedule?

Macinzie's Question: When my ex & I split up, I suggested he have her Thursday, Friday & Saturday overnight because I work 10 hour night shifts on those nights, and figured that it was better for her to be with her father than with a babysitter while I worked. Now I am considering changing my work schedule to better accommodate my daughter's schedule, and I have also been with a wonderful man for about 8 months who we are moving in with soon. Plus he is willing to watch her while I work. I am wondering if I have a fair shot at decreasing visitation to one night a week. She is only 2 and I believe she needs a more stable primary home rather than feeling like she is always going back and forth. Also, his live-in fiancé has 2 autistic children and I do not want this to impact her negatively. What do I do?

Brette's Answer: I think you have a difficult fight if you want to change this. The fact that his girlfriend has autistic children does not mean that it is a negative situation for your daughter. You have to be able to show how the current situation is negatively affecting your child. The fact that you *could* change your work schedule is not enough. You probably would need to actually change it before you went to court. You also need to be moved in with your new boyfriend before anyone can evaluate what that situation is like. Courts don't like to disturb the status quo without a very good reason, so you really need to get your ducks in a row before asking for a change.

Would a judge order me to reduce breast feeding because of visitation?

Maria's Question: I am not able to express any more than an ounce of breast milk, and my son never has taken a bottle. He is now ten months old and still very breast milk dependent. Can the courts force me to decline in the amount of breastfeeding as a result of access?

Brette's Answer: I think you have a very strong case since breastfeeding is recommended for the first 12 months. It would not be in your son's best interest to have to stop. That would be your argument in any case. Good luck.

What if he's refusing to take them to their extracurricular activities?

Jennifer's Question: My ex-husband has every other weekend visitation with our 2 kids, but every time they come back our daughter has head lice and he refuses to take them to their extracurricular activities. I have been in the house and know it's unsanitary but what can I do to protect my kids from that environment? Will a judge agree with him that he doesn't have to take the kids to any of their extracurricular activities?

Brette's Answer: Seek a modification. A parent who refuses to take a child to activities is not behaving in the best interest of the child. The head lice are also a concern. You can represent yourself in family court.

What if he refuses to pick our son up from sports practice?

Heather's Question: My son is in middle school and is very passionate about participating in school sports. The practices are every day after school. His father refuses to pick him up from the practices on his days, and will not allow me to pick him up either, stating that it is too inconvenient and that sports are not "required" or "mandatory". Is there anything that I can do? My son is crushed that he will not be able to participate.

Brette's Answer: File for modification for his visits to start after sports practice. The court will support your child participating.

Can the schedule be changed due to their sports and activities?

Renee's Question: My ex lives in another state and he gets our kids every spring break, half of every Christmas break, and every summer break all summer long. This is the first summer visitation since our divorce and our kids are very active in sports and other activities. There are mandatory camps that the kids must attend in order to participate in their activities, but these happen during his visitation time. Are these issues good enough grounds for me to take him back to court to change the visitation so it does not interfere with the kids sports?

Brette's Answer: Yes, these are definitely issues that would allow you to ask for a modification of the order. And I think a judge would be likely to grant it also since participating in these activities is important to your kids and in their best interests.

My ex wants two weekends in a row to get back on schedule

Michelle's Question: My ex has visitation rights for every other weekend. The weekends got switched during vacations and we are on a different schedule because of it. Now he wants them 2 weekends in a row to get on the old schedule. What rights do I have to stop him from doing this?

Brette's Answer: Here's how you need to think about this. If your previous switch in weekends meant you had the kids two weekends in a row, then letting him have them 2 weekends in a row now is just a way to even things out and make it fair.

Can we switch weekends for a special occasion?

Sabrina's Question: I have been divorced for three years now and he has been harassing me for the past year (since I got engaged). We agreed to switch weekends so my kids can be in my wedding, but not two weeks to go and he is threatening to kidnap them so they can't participate. What can I do to prevent this? He stated that if I try to keep them for the weekend he will charge me with kidnapping. I have physical custody and control and he just has visitation rights. Is it ok to still keep them like he agreed or can I get arrested?

Brette's Answer: It sounds like it would be a good idea to get any schedule changes in writing from now on. Since your order probably just says "alternate weekends" there's nothing wrong with you keeping the kids that weekend. If you're nervous about this, you can go to court and seek a temporary order permitting this. It sounds as if he's having a hard time dealing with your remarriage and is trying to use the kids as a weapon against you. You might want to reassure him that he will always be their father and that your new husband will not take his place in their lives.

What if he refuses visitation just to be spiteful?

Tecla's Question: I have three children. My oldest is 20 and lives with her Dad, my middle child, 17 lives with me as does my 13 year old. My 13 year old is at his Dad's for the summer. My 17 year old prefers to stay with me. I am going out of town for two weeks and my ex has known about this for two months. He stated that he will not take my 17 year old at all for the two weeks. I don't know what to do? I have no one to watch her and he just told me two days before my trip!!! I am hurting so much for my 17 year old...I would never tell her that her father refuses for her to come over while the other two children are at his house...Help!

Brette's Answer: I suggest you talk with him to find out what the problem is - it might be something that can be solved. Your 20 year old is old enough to provide supervision, so maybe that is the answer. Or perhaps she could find a friend to stay with? There are lots of possible solutions.

Can he change the visitation schedule whenever he wants?

Debbie's Question: My husband thinks he can make me give up my plans because he wants to take the kids on different night than agreed to in the temporary order. He says that his lawyer told him that it was ok for him to just go ahead and do it. Can he?

Brette's Answer: If your court order specifies the times he is to have the children, you have to stick to it. Usually you can change that if you both agree - the key is that you both must agree. He can't unilaterally decide to change it. You need to document what is happening. Keep a calendar indicating what days he has had the kids and when his scheduled times are, so that if you need to go to court to straighten it out, you have proof of what has been happening.

Is he in violation if he takes a vacation without the kids?

Maria's Question: My custody agreement includes a clause for 2 weeks of vacation for each parent with our children. My ex took a two week vacation without the kids, trying to pass it off as an exchange of weekends. He now wants to take the kids on a week's vacation and claims that I am violating his rights. I want to deter him from taking the kids, since I think he will be violating the agreement. Do I have a legal recourse to prevent him taking the kids or do I have to wait until he actually violates the agreement to take him to court?

Brette's Answer: If I am reading your email correctly, he went away for two weeks alone. He now wants to take a week with the children. Your agreement gives him two weeks of vacation. The agreement speaks to vacation time WITH the children and has nothing to do with what he does on his own time. If he chooses to go away for two weeks and does not exercise his visitation, that is his choice and his loss. There's nothing you can do about it. I can understand that it screws up your schedule and your children's schedule, but there's nothing you can do about it.
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The Child Visitation Environment

Is it okay if he comes to my house for visitation?

Alysa's Question: My ex-husband stays at my house on Wednesday nights so the kids don't have to go to his house (I sleep at my boyfriends). The kids like it because they don't have to pack their things and sleep somewhere else. Is there anything wrong with this arrangement?

Brette's Answer: Absolutely not, as long as everyone is comfortable with it. This kind of arrangement is actually not unusual, especially in the adjustment period. It's a great way to help everyone ease into the situation. I find that most families generally move away from it eventually though. You might find you get tired of him coming into your personal space like that and he might come to feel that he wants the kids to get comfortable in his new home. Do whatever works for you - kudos to all of you for working this out!

Is he violating the visitation order if he meets our son for lunch?

Ann's Question: My ex is under a temporary restraining order. He has visitation on the first and third Saturday of the month from 9 am to 5 pm. Once a week, he goes to his school and meets my son during his lunch time for 30 minutes. Kids eat lunch in their classroom and their teacher is also present during lunch time. Is that violation of visitation order?

Brette's Answer: If the order does not specifically say he can do so or if it does not say "other times as agreed" then yes. This is a safe, supervised way for him to have contact. Whether the judge would have a problem with it is another matter.

Can he take our baby overnight if he's never cared for her alone?

Tina's Question: I was given full physical custody when my default divorce was granted. My ex disappeared for the initial few months of my daughter's life (she is now 9 months old), and when she was 4 months old, he started coming to see her intermittently a few times a week. He is now threatening to take me to court to change custody because I won't allow him to take her alone yet (he has never been alone with her and has no idea how to care for her). What should I do?

Brette's Answer: Eventually he would be likely be given the right to be with her alone. I understand your concerns about this though. She's too young to suddenly go to his house for every weekend - what a court would do is order a gradual increase in visitation.

What you might consider doing is creating a plan that will gradually allow him to be alone with her. Start by leaving them alone in a room at your home. Then go to the backyard or outside for a little bit. Next, suggest he take her to his house for an hour, or perhaps to his parents' house.

At some point though, overnights are going to be a good idea for her. If he is a good father and cares for her appropriately, it isn't unreasonable to ask to spend some overnight time with her. She's his daughter too. The best way to move into overnights is to do so gradually. After she is used to going to her father's house, I would recommend increasing that slowly, so she spends all day with him. She also needs to be comfortable sleeping there, so start by having naptime there. Then expand it so she is there for dinner and so on. If she loves and trusts him, she will do just fine in his care.

I would suggest trying to work this out together if you can. You have to realize he has a right to be in her life, but he has to realize that it takes time to build a relationship and learn parenting skills.

How can I make sure he'll take care of her right?

Amy Asks: My ex-husband wants to take our daughter for a 2 week vacation out of state. He hasn't really been involved with her for 7 months. We are meeting to discuss our daughter, her care, tips, and concerns. I want to be sure I am thinking of everything to bring up. I know I can't control what happens while with him, but things like, what is your plan on keeping our daughter from wandering into the pool area when no one is around? Who will be driving and caring for our daughter if you decide to have a few beers? My intent is not to tell him what to do, but to get him thinking like a parent. How do I handle this?

Brette's Answer: I commend you for wanting your daughter to spend time with her father. I can understand your concerns, especially since he is not familiar with her. What you might want to do is have him come over to your house on a few different days and let him see what she is like and what he can expect. He needs to understand her schedule, her needs, and what kind of trouble she could potentially get in. He should not drink at all when he is the primary caretaker and you need to make that clear to him. You could tell him to call you once a day to check in and you could then offer any advice necessary.

It's hard, but one thing you have to remember is that he may not do things the same way you would, but that doesn't mean he's doing it all wrong. Even moms who are married to their children's fathers often feel frustrated when he doesn't do things in the same way she would. You've got to give him the freedom to find his own style and develop his own relationship.

Writing out her daily schedule could be helpful. I would spend a lot of time talking about night time - what will he do if she is afraid or can't sleep? Does he understand she might be up at 6 and ready for the day? I think you're right to worry about a pool. He needs to know he has to go in with her and can never leave her unsupervised around a pool or body of water. Two weeks is a long time to spend together when they haven't seen each other in a long time, so he should be prepared for some separation anxiety - letting her talk to you on the phone should help. He might think he needs to have something planned every single second. Let him know she needs down time - time to just hang around the hotel room or wherever they are staying. Good luck!

Can he get visitation if my ex gives our son alcohol?

T's Question: My 5 years old son's father was basically never involved in his life. Now he has filed for visitation, but my son really does not want to go (and it's not any type of separation problems because he attends school). Every time I make him go he cries and begs me not to, and tells me that he hates it there, and that they are mean to him. He also comes back with very bad habits, saying curse words and sexually inappropriate things. He has also admitted to me that he lets him "taste" liquor because he thinks it is funny that he can't stand the taste. Is this good enough reason for this to go any other way, and what are some of my options?

Brette's Answer: I am concerned about the language your son has picked up and sampling alcohol is not acceptable. These are serious concerns and should be discussed in court. I do want to clarify one thing - you said he isn't having separation issues because he goes to school. Actually, it's quite common for children to have problems going back and forth between parents, no matter what their age. It is a difficult transition.

Can I limit visitations to no overnights for medical concerns?

Gale's Question: My husband and I are legally separated. We agreed to joint custody with me being the custodial parent. He never believed our preemie daughter has asthma or our other daughter was allergic to eggs (dr. confirmed). He refuses to take the kids to the doctor and has repeatedly not given the inhalers that have been prescribed. Can I limit visitations to no overnights for medical concerns? What options are there for me? I have doctor's stating our children have medical concerns.

Brette's Answer: I think you are right to be concerned. I think you'll need a Doctor to testify and provide proof of what has happened in some of these instances. No overnight visitation makes sense given the situation. Good luck.

Who is responsible for supplying medications during visitation?

Lyn's Question: If my child requires Asthma medication and is on his father's insurance (who has primary custody), does the father provide me with medication on weekend visits or do I have to get insurance to get the medication as well?

Brette's Answer: The asthma medication should be sent with the child and is covered by the father's insurance.

Am I obligated to send the kid's medications if we alternate weeks?

Sarah's Question: After being divorced for several years, my ex is just now exercising his rights to see our children on an alternating schedule of one week on and one week off. According to our decree, he is required to carry health insurance on our kids. Since he never complied, I have provided the coverage and have paid all premiums, co pays and prescription fees on my own. None of which he has reimbursed. Both of our children have chronic conditions that require medications daily. One of which is life threatening if not given. Am I obligated to send the children's medications with them on his weeks?

Brette's Answer: The way to handle this is to file for enforcement/violation of the support order requiring him to provide the health insurance. It would not be a good idea to refuse to send medication with your children.

What if he's not trained to handle allergic reactions?

Heather's Question: We found out last month our 2 year old daughter is allergic to eggs and peanuts. The father was ordered to go to her doctor's appointment, but didn't. Since he did not come, he was not trained or taught the signs. I was told to get two sets of Epi pens; one for daycare and one for home. He wants me to provide my set for him. I don't want to, because he is so irresponsible, and what if he doesn't give them back.

Brette's Answer: It is dangerous for your child to be with him if he does not know how to treat her or use the medication. You need to consult with your attorney.

Can I stop visitation until he is medically trained to care for her?

Kristina's Question: I have sole custody of my 3 year old daughter, who has been diagnosed with Cerebral Palsy and is not verbal or walking at this point. Her CP causes her many medical problems and requires special care. Every time she comes home from visitation, she has bruises (once even fingerprint bruises on her thigh) or her G tube site is raw and red. I have called DCFS and the police but they have said that due to that fact that she can't talk, it can't be proven who did it. My question is what motion can I file to stop visitation until he is medically trained and what proof do I need?

Brette's Answer: You need to keep a journal and take photos with a time/date stamp if possible showing the problems. You should file as soon as possible (as soon as you have some evidence) and ask for a temporary order halting visitation.

What can I do if he gives her foods that trigger her allergies?

Michaela's Question: I have primary physical custody of our child but he has visitation. When he has over-nights at his house, he feeds her berries which she is allergic to. She gets very sick and has red dots all over her body from eating the berries. Is there anything I can do to protect my daughter while she's at her dad's house?

Brette's Answer: Yes. Go to court and ask to have the visitation plan modified to include a provision that he must make his home berry-free. You should take a photo of the allergic reaction she is having. You can also get more ideas by checking out special food diets and visitation.

Can visitation be modified if he's always sick after being at his dad's?

Jennifer's Question: Can I take my ex back to court to have visitation modified if the only proof of medical neglect I have is that my son is always more sickly when he comes back from his dads? My ex ignores food allergies, doesn't give allergy medicine to my son, and keeps allergens in his home (a cat). It is my word against his that our son is not receiving his medicine (and of course the physical evidence of runny nose, ear infections, and break outs from allergens, but he attributes all these to germs from daycare).

Brette's Answer: I think you need to get some medical evidence to back this up. Take your son to the doctor after each visit and see what the doctor thinks. It is possible the stress of the transition is what is affecting his health - some kids do not manage transitions well. You can also get more ideas by checking out Co-parenting and Child Health Issues.

How can I insure he takes better care of the kids during visitation?

Tiffany's Question: My son has come home for the second time with water blisters on his face due to sunburn. I sent sun-block and even sent a reminding text to his father about applying the sun-block. How can I ensure he takes better care of my kids when he has them?

Brette's Answer: Take a photo. If it happens again, it has become a pattern and is a problem. You could go back to court and get visitation reduced or at least get a warning from the judge to him not to let it happen again. If it continues you could also contact child protective services and it could be the basis of a neglect case against him. You need to decide how far you want to take this.

How can I prove his house is too unsanitary for visitation?

Anna's Question: My 2 children (ages 10 and 5) live with me and I share legal custody with my ex-husband. I haven't been to his apartment, but the kids and his family tell me that it is a pig-sty, so full of trash and junk that you can't even walk. The kids come back without having bathed, brushed their teeth, or changed clothes for days. He has a history of "forgetting" to give them their medicine, apply sun block, etc. As their mother, I consider this negligence, but how can I prove it?

Brette's Answer: You're going to have to get someone in there to be able to offer testimony or photos in order to get a court to listen to you. Any chance you can drive the kids there and need to come in and use the bathroom? An option is to call child and family services, but if it isn't as bad as you're describing you're going to create a very volatile situation.

What are the stipulations for visitation if he has no running water?

Krystal's Question: My ex recently moved to a one bedroom house, but has no water. My 4 year old son has come home with dirty underwear on, teeth that haven't been brushed, and un-bathed. He buys gallon jugs of water to cook and fill the toilet with and sometimes to drink. Along with this my son said they had pizza for lunch, dinner, and breakfast. My ex knows my son cannot have dairy because of a milk protein allergy, yet my ex won't buy the soy milk or even juice for my son to drink. But the major issue is the lack of running water, what are the stipulations for someone to have children in the home with no running water?

Brette's Answer: The issue is that being in a situation like this does not necessary make a person a bad parent. It is possible to live without running water and still keep your child clean with clean clothes and teeth, so if you ex cannot do that, it is an issue. Ignoring the allergy is an important problem and one that would be of great concern to the court. Failing to make sure the child has a milk substitute is also an issue.

Is it illegal for my boyfriend to sleep in the same room as my child?

Shannon's Question: I currently live in the marital home with my son that's 12 and daughter that's 5. Unfortunately the set up of the home isn't ideal and while my son has his own room with a door, my daughter's bed is in mine. My boyfriend will be visiting and my ex said that if he sleeps in the same room as my kids, he will be contacting child services. He's telling me this is illegal to have him sleep in the same room with me and the kids. My ex in turn tells me he's more than welcome to come for a visit and sleep on the couch. How true is it being illegal?

Brette's Answer: There are no criminal laws that specifically say your boyfriend cannot sleep in the same room as your children, however it does raise serious concerns of appropriateness which could lead to possible child neglect/abuse charges. Any attorney would most likely tell you this is not a good idea and would advise you against it - if you have questions, call your own attorney. Where did you and your husband sleep while living in this home? How did you make it work then? Can you configure it in the same way now? And if not why can't your boyfriend sleep on the couch?

Can I request my ex provide a separate bedroom for my son?

Alicia's Question: My ex and I have an 8 month old son. After six years together, he moved out and moved in with a girlfriend. My concern is that she has two children, a girl 15 years and a boy 12 years old. His plan is to have our son share a room with either one of the kids or sleep in the bed with him and the girlfriend. I feel my son should have his own space at both homes. I don't know these people and neither does my ex. Can I request in our paperwork that he have his own room?

Brette's Answer: I understand your concerns but if every child had to have his or her own room, there would be a lot of parents with no contact with their children. I don't think sleeping in the bed with him and his girlfriend is a good plan - the AAP recommends against co-sleeping. Does he have a crib? If not, this is not a safe environment. If he does, it is safe. I understand your concerns about your son adjusting, so I would recommend he start slowly - have a couple day visits and work up to an overnight.

Will the court make my ex have separate bedrooms for the kids?

Lynette's Question: Is there a law requiring a dad to have a separate bedroom for the children during his visitation? My son sleeps in the living room on an air mattress and my 4 yr. old daughter sleeps in her dad's bed. I think they should have their own room.

Brette's Answer: There are not laws about this kind of thing; there are however cases that indicate what a judge should consider acceptable or not. It really depends on the circumstances. No judge is going to deny a person visitation because he or she cannot afford a large home with multiple bedrooms. It is important however that a child is adequately cared for. If your ex can afford a bigger house or more beds, you have a position worth pursuing.

Should unrelated children of the opposite sex share a room?

Kelly's Question: I have been divorced for 5 years. My daughter is 8 and my ex is remarried to a woman who has 2 sons, ages 10 and 14. My daughter shares a room with the 10 year old son when she has her extended visitations with her father. I am concerned with this room-sharing and sleeping arrangement. I do not find it appropriate that 2 children of the opposite sex and at these ages share personal space where they dress/undress and sleep. I have tried to speak with my ex about this to no avail. Have you ever seen a stipulation in a divorce/child custody decree stating that 2 children, unrelated by blood, and of maturing age should not share a common bedroom? I would like to modify my current order to include this.

Brette's Answer: This is generally not considered acceptable, however some families do not have enough space. If children change alone in the room or in a bathroom there is generally not a problem. If you want to modify your order based on this, you can file for modification. If there are two sons, it certainly seems they could share a room while your daughter is there and that would not be an unreasonable arrangement.

Does he need his own car seats for visitation?

Cindy's Question: I was told by my lawyer a year ago that my ex needed his own car seats for our children, instead of taking my seats each time. I have been letting him use my seats, but last week he refused to bring the seats to me. He now says he doesn't need to have his own and he can use mine anytime he wants. Does he need to purchase his own seats?

Brette's Answer: Well, it would seem to me to be common sense that he needs his own, although I can't tell you what your state case law says. I think any judge would say that he needs to have his own in order to provide adequate care because otherwise where do you draw the line - are you supposed to transfer cribs and high chairs too? If he doesn't have a car seat, he cannot drive the children because it is not safe and it is illegal. I would suggest that your attorney send his attorney a letter saying he must provide his own car seats and you will not give him the children if he does not have them.

Do I have to return my child if my ex is basically homeless?

Jacinda's Question: My ex is the residential parent and we have joint legal custody. My daughter is with me right now for summer visitation, and has actually been here longer at my ex's request. He is attempting to move to another state. Do I have to send her to a different state, where my ex is homeless, without family, and obviously out of cash (because he wants me to pay to change the flight because he says there isn't enough in his account?).

Brette's Answer: First of all, if he has residential custody then yes you do have to return her to him, unless you can show she would somehow be in danger with him or being with him would not be in her best interests (if he is truly "homeless" that meets this requirement, but if he is just looking for a new place to live and is staying in hotels it may not qualify). You can certainly try to get a change in custody since there has been a change in circumstances since the last time you were in court. Who pays for the transportation would be decided by looking at who has paid for it in the past. Perhaps you might suggest to your ex that you keep her until he is settled and has a place to live. Frame it as making things easier for him.

Can he get weekend visitation if he doesn't have a place to live?

Lara's Question: If my ex-husband has no place to live, do I have to give him our daughter on his visitation weekend?

Brette's Answer: When you say he has no place to live I am unclear as to whether you mean he is between apartments and is currently staying with friends, or if you mean he is completely homeless, living on the street. In the first instance, as long as he is staying at a safe and clean place and your child would not be disturbed by going there, it should be fine. In the second instance, that would not be a good situation. No judge is going to give him weekend overnight visitation if he has no home. If he does settle down and has a permanent residence, then it would be possible.

Can I have weekend visitation if I'm living in a car?

Question: I am homeless and have weekend visitation rights. Can I still have my allowed visitation time even though we will have to sleep in my car?

Brette's Answer: It is unlikely a court would uphold your rights for an overnight in that situation. You should be able to have daytime visitation in a public place like a park or library or at a friend's home.

How is visitation affected if he gets sent to prison?

Sonia's Question: The father of my children is now in prison. Prior to that, we had joint custody with primary residence with me. Can he now have visitation rights? Is any previous agreement for visitation affected?

Brette's Answer: The order stands unless you ask for it to be changed. And it very likely would be changed since there has been a change in circumstances. You definitely would get sole legal custody. Visitation is going to depend on how far away he is, what he was convicted of, and how old your children are and how well they would be able to handle prison visits.

Can he get visitation if he's in prison?

Sherry's Question: My ex has been incarcerated since my five year old daughter was five months old. He went to prison for crimes he committed against me (kidnapping and assault with intent to kill), and also has a prior conviction for 2nd degree murder. He has 2 plus years to serve. I am getting nervous and feel I should file for sole custody before he is released. Is there any possibility that a judge can order visitation even though he has not seen her since this crime was committed.

Brette's Answer: No. Visitation won't be ordered while he is in prison. It is doubtful it would be after his release also. You need to get a court order giving you sole custody. » Return to top

Risky Child Visitation Situations

What should I do if she told me her Dad left her home alone?

Alexandra's Question: My 4 year old has visitation every other weekend with her father. She hates going with her father and I have to prepare her days in advance and even then she cries frantically. She also recently told me that her father has left her home alone on more than one occasion. What should I do before the next visitation?

Brette's Answer: Talk to your ex. 4 year olds are not reliable reporters, so she might not be telling you exactly what happened.

Can I refuse visitation if his vehicle lacks the right seat belts?

Amanda's Question: My ex got a truck that only has lap belts in it. He is using booster seats in the front, but I looked it up and it says you can't put children that are 5 and 6 in booster seats with lap belts only. I asked him not to take them on the freeway with them and he told me I can't tell him where he can and can't drive his kids. Can I refuse to let him take them if they are not in the right restraints?

Brette's Answer: You can refuse, but he can then say you're violating the order. You need to get the order modified to reflect this so you won't have any problems. You're going to need to get someone who is an expert to testify about what is legal and what isn't - possibly a state trooper or police officer? Call and ask if they have a car seat expert - most do.

What can I do if he has seizures and drives with our child?

Peggy's Question: My ex-husband is having seizures. I know he has been driving with her in the car. (I have witnessed him driving the car to drop her off and pick her up at our designated place.) I asked that he not drive with her and he informed me that his medical condition is none of my business. I am concerned for her safety both while driving and while in his custody. What are my rights to ensure her safety?

Brette's Answer: You can seek to have visitation modified so that he cannot drive with her in the car.

How do I handle visitation if my ex has a sleep disorder?

Vanessa's Question: My ex hasn't been around our son since the first two weeks he was born and he's now 1 and half. We are going to court for child support and I have heard that he wants to see his son now. He has a sleeping problem that makes him fall asleep at any point in time and it's hard to wake him up and I worry about my son's safety. If I allow him to go over there, can I request supervised visitation? Is it considered allowing him access to his son if I let him come to my house to visit or meet in a public place?

Brette's Answer: Yes, any kind of contact would be good and this is how you want your son to be introduced to him anyhow. His medical problem is a concern, so you can ask for supervised visitation.

How can I prove that he bullies the children?

Laura's Question: My children are 11, 13, and 15. My husband is basically an absent father, but when he is around, he is either in a great mood, or a bully. Bullying is so hard to prove, and so hard to describe unless you are actually there to witness the situation. I'm afraid that lawyers/judges will not realize how devastating it is to my children and me. Is there some kind of stipulation that can be put in the custody settlement that allows for my children to be able to call me or family member if their father is on one of his rampages? I have no way to prove that this behavior exists.

Brette's Answer: I think the best thing would be to get your kids into therapy so that you can have someone who can testify about how his behavior affects them.

Can a child ask for the visits to stop if the father is abusive?

Claire's Question: My father has visitation rights that allow him to come to our home for visits. However, my siblings and I do not want to see him nor do we want anything to do with him as he has been abusive throughout our childhood. My mother has tried to insist we allow him to see us, but he uses us as an excuse to see our mother instead. He visits in the late hours of the night, sometimes 2 or 3 in the morning when we are asleep. He causes tension in the household and when he is unable to call or see my mother he threatens everyone and becomes violent. We feel like we're being used as an excuse for him to continue his abuse. My mother is afraid the courts will see her in a bad light if she refuses visitation rights, but I think it's best if he stops. The last time he visited, he and I got into a physical fight where he hit me. Can we ask for the visits to stop? He isn't coming to see us anyway.

Brette's Answer: Someone can call child protective or family services to report the fact that he hit you (you can even call). This will likely result in a protective order being issued; keeping him away from the home and all of you and suspending visitation. Your mom can file for a modification of the order (and ask for an emergency temporary order) and depending on your age, you may be able to testify. At the very least, your mom can request a Law Guardian or Guardian ad litem you can speak with who can represent your point of view. Your mom can change the locks and not allow him in until this is resolved, but it would be best if she filed before doing so. I also suggest she get an attorney. I know its summer, but if there is a teacher or counselor at your school you feel comfortable with, talk to him or her about what is happening.

What if his abusive behavior is affecting our son?

B's Question: My ex keeps our son every other weekend, and I believe that he is becoming more and more emotionally and mentally abusive with my son. Last night he called our son neurotic and doesn't hesitate to speak this way in front of him. He drops in and out of his life, one minute saying he won't be seeing him again and then randomly showing up at his school to pick him up. My son's school is aware of the situation and has an increasing concern, as do I. My son is showing worsening signs of anxiety, and I have come to the point where I feel that I need to protect my son from his Dad. What can I do? I am raising my son alongside my partner (same sex) which is another concern. I do not want my sexuality to endanger my custody and my ex has threatened this.

Brette Answers: You need to go back to court and get this changed. Visitation is NOT healthy if it is emotionally damaging to your child. You can ask to have visitation suspended while the court figures out what is going on - which may involve a psych evaluation of your ex and possibly one of your child. If your ex got counseling, he might be able to spend time with your son again. The fact that you are partnered with another woman is NOT a factor. It has nothing to do with your ability to parent and is certainly not a strike against you in any way.

Can I restrict visitation if I'm afraid he'll hurt our children?

Jennifer's Question: My children of 10, 9, and 6 have visitation with their father and they came home today and told me that he punched my son in the head a few times and smacked my daughter open hand in the face. Will their word be enough to take away visitation? I'm angry and scared he might do more than that if I am not around.

Brette's Answer: I would suggest you talk to your lawyer. The problem is proving what happened. Your lawyer may recommend you call child protective services.

Do I have to make them go if one was molested at their Dad's house?

Michele's Question: I have sole custody of my 5 year old twin boys. I learned that one of the twins was being molested by their half-brother while they were visiting with their father. Now the older brother is not around the twins, however they do not want to go to their fathers anymore to spend the night. Do I really have to make them go stay all weekend when they cry and beg me not to make them? The one that was molested still to this day talks about the "bad things" his half-brother did to him. Even though DFCS dropped the case, they want me to put the twins in counseling, but won't refer them to a counselor! Please...help me!

Brette's Answer: You can certainly begin a case to limit visitation, or perhaps put some restrictions on it. Your son HAS to go to counseling. Ask your pediatrician for a referral. He will never recover from this unless you get him professional help.

Can he get visitation if he's on trial for child abuse?

Stephanie's Question: My daughter's father was recently charged with aggravated child abuse towards his other son, but he has not been incarcerated yet. Is there any way he will be able to have visitation with my daughter?

Brette's Answer: Generally, visitation would be on hold or supervised until there is a conviction. At that point, visitation would be stopped.

Can I request visitation occur someplace other than his home?

Paola's Question: When my husband left last year, he was living with his mother, but he moved out. We have a daughter that is almost 3 years old, and now he wants to take our daughter over to his new house. They have a lot of parties, and I don't think my daughter will be safe over there, especially since he has never taken good care of her in the first place. Can a judge order him to see our daughter at his Mom's house only?

Brette's Answer: Yes, you can request supervised visitation, or direct that visitation not take place at that residence. If there is no court order you need to file for a temporary order now so that you can get something into writing to prevent future problems.

Can she stop visitation if he has a venomous snake?

Jody's Question: Can my son's ex-wife stop weekend stays with my son because he now owns a venomous snake? The snake is in a locked cage with no access in. She is telling him he can't have them for his alternate weekend sleep-over now.

Brette's Answer: She can't decide that, but the judge can.

He's taking the kids around people convicted of child endangerment.

Jessica's Question: I am having trouble with my ex-husband on agreeing where he is allowed to take my children. He has friends in his life again that have been convicted of child endangerment and willful harm. Step dad has also recently been charged and sentenced with drug possession. I told him that I do not want my children in that environment. What can I do?

Brette's Answer: Go back to court and get the order modified specifying he is not to take the children to be with this family, or you can make it broader to say not with people known to have drug convictions. It also sounds like he might need some direction about what exactly he ought to do during visitation. You could try to come up with some suggestions for him. Good luck.

What are my options if CPS has intervened at their Dad's house?

S's Question: My children are due to go to their father's just after Christmas and I am concerned for their welfare at his house and with the people his is associating with. He is living with his father and the house was recently raided by the police. His father has been arrested and taken to jail. His father's girlfriend had two children at the house (a 3 year old and a 5 month old) and they have been removed from her care and taken into the care of department of community services. I would appreciate any advice you could give me on the situation.

Brette's Answer: You should file for a modification of the custody plan. No judge is going to want to send kids into a house where other kids have been removed by protective services.

Can he get visitation if he has a drug conviction and is abusive?

Leslie's Question: I have a 4 year old son whose biological father left the area after his first birthday. Since then he has had no contact at all with my son or provided any financial support. He has a felony charge of cocaine possession for which he is serving 3 years of probation. I contacted him recently to ask if he would sign over his rights to my fiancé, who hopes to adopt my son. Now he is stating that he is going to court so that he can see "his" son. He has been verbally and physically abusive in the past, and I honestly fear for all of our safety when it comes to his violent temper. What measures can I take to ensure my son remains with me?

Brette's Answer: This is a difficult situation. Children have a right to know their parents, however if he presents a danger to the child, that is a problem. It's possible the court could order supervised visitation and see how things go. If you are afraid for your safety and that of your child you need to make that clear to the court. All you can do is tell the court your side of the story and present as much information as you can about this man's life history. Ask that a Law Guardian or Guardian ad litem be appointed to represent your son and get an attorney for yourself if you can afford it.

What should I do about visitation if my ex is an alcoholic?

Jen's Question: We divorced 2 1/2 years ago and my 7 year old son visits his father every other weekend. Because of the drinking my ex does I have had it put in our court order that my son is not to be around alcohol. This past month my son has been talking a lot about how daddy drinks beer at night. I'm concerned because the past 2 visits my son hasn't wanted to go to his fathers, and had an anxiety attack on the way home from visitation. When I took him to the doctor, the doctor asked my son questions about his home-life and also about dad's house. My son told the doctor that his daddy yells at him a lot and started to get emotional. The doctor diagnosed him with anxiety and also talked to me about having me contact youth services. The doctor said that my son's anxiety might be caused by something traumatic that has happened. What should I do about my son's visits with his father?

Brette's Answer: If you have an order restricting alcohol and it is being violated, you can work on a violation of that, but you have to prove it. If professionals are telling you there is a problem in that house, you need to seek to modify the visitation. This is one of those situations where it is difficult to prove what is going on however, so I suggest you get an attorney immediately.

Can visitation be modified if he drives drunk with the kids in the car?

Amy's Question: My ex-husband is an alcoholic and has been ordered by the judge to not drink before or during his visitation time with our children (ages 16 and 12). However he does drink when he is with the kids and has driven my youngest son repeatedly while he was drunk. Because he hasn't gotten a DUI and it is basically his word against mine, how can I protect my children?

Brette's Answer: I would suggest you have someone with you during pick up and drop offs who can be a witness if he is drunk at those times. That way it is not your word against his. Your kids are old enough to talk to the judge in chambers or testify about the drinking. You need to go back to family court.

Do my kids have to testify their Dad drives drunk during visitation?

Kathie's Question: My divorce degree states that my ex can't consume alcohol during visitation with the kids, yet he does. He has had my 12 year old drive him about 25 miles home because he was too drunk. This weekend, he was very drunk and trying to get my kids in the truck so he could leave. They didn't want to go with him because he was drinking. My 17 year old daughter ended up driving him to a convenience store where I came to get them. We left him passed out in the back of a truck and went home. I don't want to make my kids have to testify against their own father but I don't know what else to do. Do you have any suggestions?

Brette's Answer: They may not have to testify. In some states they can talk with the judge in the judge's chambers. The transcript is not available for parents to read. Ask that a law guardian/Guardian ad litem be appointed.

What if he got a DWI while the kids were with him?

Jessie's Question: My ex got a DWI with the kids in the car. Can I stop him from having the ordered visits and how will this affect the order? What should I be prepared for?

Brette Answers: You can file for a modification. You can ask that he attend alcohol counseling. Visitation may continue, but with the provision that he not be permitted to drive the kids or drink or be drunk around them. Good luck

How is visitation handled if he doesn't have a driver's license?

Nicole's Question: My ex is trying to get visitation rights for every other weekend. He has no driver's license and has been in jail a couple times for 3 DWI's. It has been 9 years and he rarely calls to see her. If he does get visitation rights, do I need to meet him or should he drive and hour to pick her up?

Brette's Answer: Having a relationship with her dad might not be a bad thing, so maybe you should give it a try. He absolutely cannot drive her, so he needs to make alternate transportation arrangements. You do not have to provide transportation.

Can I request he be drug-tested before visitation?

Crystal's Question: My ex was highly addicted to drugs, for which he went through rehab. He now has a new girlfriend and she is known for abusing drugs. They are moving in together and it worries me, because he has visitation every other weekend. How can I be sure he's not abusing again? Can I, being the primary custodian, request that he's tested prior to their visits?

Brette's Answer: Why don't you talk to him first? Express your concerns, but in a non-accusatory way. Ask about the girlfriend - whether she is using and if not, when she stopped. Make it clear you want him to have visitation but that you just want to make sure the kids are safe.

There isn't much you can do on a "what if" situation such as this. You could probably get a court to issue an order that the children are not to be around anyone using drugs and your husband can't use drugs or be high around them, but it doesn't guarantee a thing and is likely to hurt relations between you. You could ask that he be tested for drugs, but the court isn't going to do that before every visit and you couldn't get the girlfriend tested. You may be better to keep an eye on the situation, make your concerns known to him and wait and see. Talk to your attorney and find out how your family court handles these kinds of concerns.

Can he get visitation if he has serious mental problems?

Candice's Question: I am scared that my ex will get visitation with my son. His mother told me he has been seeing a psychiatrist since he was 12. He has been diagnosed as bi-polar, and has been told he is borderline schizophrenic. He was put on lithium about 3 years ago, but has not taken his medicine because he thinks he doesn't need it. He has never had my son by himself, and has only seen my son at his parent's house. His parents have always been very good to me and my son, and actually help me with paying daycare each month. I am worried because my ex's parents are trying to get their son to file for custody so they can have my son. Please let me know what the chances are of him getting any kind of visitation, and if his parents can use the fact that they help me with daycare against me.

Brette's Answer: Nothing can happen until your ex actually files papers. The fact that he has not had regular contact with the child makes it likely he will not get what he is asking for. Your job is going to be to present the court with all of this information. You should get an attorney who can help you do that. His mental health is of grave concern. He sounds like a good candidate for supervised visitation.

You should also be aware that the grandparents might seek grandparent visitation. This could be carefully constructed so that it is just for them and not their son and I think you might not have a problem with that then. The fact that they have been helping with daycare is just one factor the court would be interested in. Your attorney could help you reach a settlement with them so that you would not need to go a trial - it sounds as though you could work something out together.

Can I limit his visitation if he is addicted to online porn?

Amanda's Question: My husband left me about 5 months ago. I recently discovered his addiction to porn & other very un-healthy on-line activities. I've found unbelievably awful things on his laptop. I have timestamps on when he was on-line watching porn videos. I've even found lots of nude pictures on our computer, of him & another woman. I'm still on maternity leave & I want to file for legal separation & get child support. Can I limit the amount of visitation, or have supervised visits until he can kick his sex addiction habits?

Brette's Answer: The first thing you have to understand is that just because someone watches porn, he is not an unfit parent. I understand you're offended by it and also betrayed, but it has nothing to do with parenting. As long as he doesn't do it around the children and does not create an environment that is not safe for the kids, it really has no impact. You're not going to get supervised visitation awarded because he watches it.

How do I handle visitation if he's a sex addict?

Colleen's Question: My husband has a sex addiction which we've been battling for six years. His behavior went from computer porn to sex online, then to phone contact to sex on phone, and finally to meeting strangers for sex. I finally broke out of my codependent stupor and started separation proceedings. I want my children to have contact with their dad but I don't see how they can ever be in his home. Currently he contacts us sporadically for visits (I take them to a public place and stay in the parking lot). He so incredibly angry all the time and is telling people that it is me who is withholding the children. They are dying to see him more and my only boundary is supervision. How do I approach custody with a man who is not in recovery but goes to a psychologist?

Brette's Answer: I think if I were you, I would want a child psychologist or therapist to weigh in on this. I assume the kids do not know what his issues are, but they've got to be wondering why you won't allow him to see them (and he might be pointing a finger of blame at you with them). I would want professional advice on how best to handle this. I agree with you that supervised visitation is necessary, but you don't have to be the supervisor (in fact, it is probably easier if you are not). Is there a friend or relative who might be willing to let him come over and visit them at their home? Visitation in public places is a strain on everyone. I think you need to get some distance between you to reduce the anger, but you also need to find a way for the kids to safely continue to have a relationship with him. » Return to top

Child Refuses Visitation

When visitation interferes with extracurricular activities

Lisa's Question: I am another single mom with a visitation issue and concern. My 9 year old son is expressing a lot of dissatisfaction with having to miss out on his key events to visit his father. He visits his Dad 6 weeks in the summer and one weekend a month. He has made a club level soccer team, which requires more of a commitment. I do not have control of his attendance when he is required to visit his father. My son is very upset because he may be eliminated from the team if he continues to miss games/practices. Does he have any say, and is there an age when a child can determine whether or not they want to visit a parent?

Brette's Answer: It is difficult when children reach an age where they start to have commitments that don't mesh with visitation. A court would weigh the importance of your son's activities against the importance that he stay connected to his father, and it's likely staying connected to his father is going to seem more important. I would suggest you try to find a compromise. Talk to your ex and explain to him how important these games and practices are and see if he might come down for them instead of taking your son to his house all the time. I would also suggest you talk to the coach and explain the situation.

Would the judge order counseling if my son doesn't want to see me?

Vida's Question: My 14 year old son has been refusing to live with me and has stayed with his father. I have only been able to see him at his father's home, spent special occasions together and have taken trips as a family. I did not go to court because I was afraid my son and his father would get even angrier and I would see him even less, but I am faced with the reality that I may not be able to see him anyway. Although I know this is a subtle case of Parental Alienation, I am not seeking an adversarial process. I only want to see my son. His father is not going to fight me for custody. He doesn't really have to because our son is refusing to be with me. Would the judge at least order counseling for my son and me?

Brette's Answer: I think it is good to never give up on your child. Asking for some visitation and counseling is an excellent idea. A therapist can help both of you figure your relationship out. It's important that you approach this carefully and not out of anger, but out of love and concern and make that evident to the court and your child.

At what age can children choose to spend less time with their dad?

Janet's Question: My 2 daughters are 9 & 12. How old must a child be to make a request to the judge that she wants to spend less time with her father? Current schedule is 9 overnights by me and 5 overnights by their dad, on a rotating schedule.

Brette's Answer: There is no law about this. Each state has different case law that indicates what kind of influence the child can have on the decision at various age ranges. It depends on that particular child's ability. The decision is never completely up to the child.

The thing to understand is that most kids go through phases where they want to spend less time with one parent or the other. The request in and of itself is not going to be enough. There needs to be some proof that a change would benefit the kids. At 9 and 12, they are old enough to express an opinion, but their opinion is not going to be decisive. If you want a change, you need to show the court why the current plan isn't working and how a change would help the kids. Is this schedule confusing for them? Is it hard to deal with school while going and back and forth like this? Would they benefit from a little more stability? These are the kinds of issues that need to be addressed.

Can I stop visitation if she doesn't want to visit her father?

Susan's Question: I have a custody agreement which puts me as primary care giver of my daughter. Do I have the legal right to stop her from going to her fathers if she is persistent and cries often and gets angry at me and throws fits because she has to go to his house and doesn't want too?

Brette's Answer: No you don't. In fact, it is your responsibility as the custodial parent to encourage her to go and help her work through her feelings. This is not at all abnormal. Most kids have resistance to visitation at some point.

If you give in, you're giving the child control of the situation. Instead, I would suggest several things. Depending on her age, try to find out what her objection is. Then try to create coping mechanisms to deal with those concerns. Get her father involved so he knows what's going on. If you and your ex can work together and present a united front, it will help her get through it.

What can I do if my son is suddenly afraid to go to his Dad's?

Suz's Question: My son is 5 and has been going with his dad since he was 1. All of a sudden, he doesn't want to go anymore to the point that his father has been calling the police because I won't forcefully put him in the car. My son says that he is scared of him. We currently have shared custody and he is threatening to file for 50-50 custody. Will a judge grant this if the child doesn't even want to go for a weekend? I really don't want my son to end up suffering more than benefiting.

Brette's Answer: It sounds like you need a professional evaluation of what is going on. Why is your son afraid? Sometimes children go through stages where they don't want to go and have no good reason, but there could be a real problem. It also sounds like the exchanges are filled with tension and this could be making your son upset, or more upset. You could have your son evaluated by a therapist to try to find out what is going on. You could have someone else do the hand offs, so that you and your ex are not together. Depending on what the therapist says custody may need to be adjusted.

Can a teen choose whether to go for visitation or not?

Victoria's Question: My parents are divorced, and my dad and I don't get along. Can I choose if I want to go to his house on the weekends or can he force me? Is it legal for a teen to choose if they want to go or not?

Brette's Answer: You should talk to your mom about this. Your opinion is very important to the court. However, whether you like it or not he is your dad and will be for the rest of your life. Cutting him out of your life completely is not the answer. Divorce is hard for everyone involved. I think it would be great if your mom could help you find someone to talk about this - maybe a counselor or therapist.

Can my teens refuse to meet my fiancé and spend time with us?

Mary's Question: I have been divorced for 4 years. I have been seeing a man for 18 months now and we are planning on getting married. My 14 year old triplet boys refuse to meet him and spend time with us as a couple. Are they allowed to make that decision?

Brette's Answer: Hi Mary. Children do not get to decide about visitation. However, once they become teens, it is harder to force them to go. The question here is how is your ex handling this? Is he encouraging them to go? Is he saying bad things about you or your boyfriend? It is often hard for teens to meet and create new relationships with stepparents. I would encourage you to seek the help of a therapist if you can't make any progress.

Do I have to make my child visit her father?

Jill writes: Please give me some help and advice. My 14 year old daughter does not want to visit with her father. He drinks and keeps his house unclean. I have been ordered by the court for her to go, and gave my lawyer many items to support my daughter's reasons not wanting to. Do I or my daughter have any other options?

Brette's Answer: I think it's terrific that you have made the effort to allow your daughter time with her father. It's also very responsible of you to follow the court order - you don't want to find yourself in contempt of court. Withholding visitation can be grounds for a change in custody, so you don't want to go there. I understand your concerns though. I have several suggestions for you. First of all, you need to know your daughter is not the first and certainly won't be the last teenager who disagrees with a visitation plan. Part of being a teen is rebelling, making contrary decisions, and testing. There were probably times when you were a teenager that you didn't want to spend time with your parents, and it's no different for kids of divorced parents. Your daughter's feelings are important, but as her parent, you have to look at the big picture and see that it is important for her to have a relationship with both of her parents.

Now that being said, I completely understand your worries about what is happening at his house. If it's at all possible try to sit down with him in a neutral, no-conflict way and share your concerns. Don't accuse and don't judge. Instead, tell him how your daughter is feeling. Stress that you really want them to spend time together and say you're hoping maybe together you can come up with a way for your daughter to feel more comfortable at his home or with him. The key to this conversation is to try to approach it like you and he are solving a problem together, not as if you are confronting him (and this is not to say you aren't totally entitled to do so, but it's not going to be productive). If his house is a mess, what if he takes her out to eat once a week instead? There are alternatives. You just have to find some that will work.

If this doesn't work, it might be a good idea for your attorney and you to have a serious face to face talk. You need to discuss in detail what your concerns are with specific incidents. To have grounds to change visitation you've got to have some real facts and solid incidents that show he is putting her in bad situations. Your daughter's opinion is important and a court will take into the consideration the opinion of a teen, but by itself it isn't enough. She is still a minor and it's in her best interest to have two parents in her life.

I worked with many families who were in similar situations to yours and I know how difficult and frustrating it is for you. The fact is that you can't change who he is and neither can your daughter. You have to either find a way to work with him or a way to convince a judge that he is not fit to take care of her. And you can focus on helping your daughter cope with whatever outcome you have by having her see a counselor who can help her work through her feelings about her dad. I wish you both the best of luck. ~Brette~

What can I do if my child doesn't want to visit her abusive father?

Ami's Question: My ex-husband was charged with emotional maltreatment of our 15-yr old daughter. He's also has an anger & sex addiction problem, which he briefly went to counseling for. We attended mediation and mutually agreed in writing that our daughter could choose when to go on visits or not. My ex then turned around and accused me of custodial interference. Our daughter was already in counseling at the time, but the counselor has refused to write a letter or appear in court over fears of being sued by my ex. If a case of emotional abuse was substantiated by Child Protective Services but I can't get a guardian ad litem appointed and her former counselor won't testify, what options do I have?

Brette's Answer: You can subpoena her counselor. A finding of child abuse is significant and persuasive to the court. If you have a written agreement that your daughter could choose to go or not, he doesn't have much to stand on to accuse you of custodial interference. You need to get an attorney.

Am I held responsible if my teenager refuses to go?

Linda's Question: My 16 year old son does not get along with is dad and does not want to go to his house for visitation. I try to tell him it is court ordered and he should try to improve his relationship by going and talking to his dad. What is my responsibility in trying to force him to go? (My ex has said he'd take me to court on contempt charges). I cannot drag him out the door -- what steps do I take so the court will know I have tried to enforce the visitation schedule?

Brette's Answer:
Dear Linda, I know how difficult your situation is. You're caught in the middle - you want your son to have a relationship with his dad, but you don't want to become the bad guy by forcing him to go. It sounds to me like you're doing all the rights things. All you can do is encourage your son to go. As long as you arrange the visitation times and make your son available, it's unlikely a court would have any problem with what you're doing. Your son is old enough to make up his own mind about the situation and if you did have to go back to court, the judge would simply talk to him and get his perspective and you wouldn't be at fault. No one is going to suggest you have to force him to go at gunpoint.

You might try talking to your son about changing the schedule. Instead of going to stay at his dad's house, what if he just had dinner with him or went to a sporting event one night a week or once every two weeks? I've often found that teens aren't aware that there are options and they simply see the situation as take it or leave it and reject it out of hand. You could also find out what about the visitation it is that he doesn't like. He might have very specific things that bother him that could be changed, for example having to spend time with his dad's girlfriend or not being allowed to see his friends while at his dad's house. He may also be having a typical teenage clash with his dad about rules or responsibilities. Find out what's going on and see if there are any fixes.

I would also suggest you try to talk to your ex yourself and tell him you're on his side and you want your son to go, but that he is at an age where forcing him to go is just going to cause resentment. Talk to your ex about the kinds of options I've suggested above. Tell him that maybe you can work together to find some alternate solutions that will work. Show him you want to make it work. Another possibility is for your ex and your son to see a counselor together to try to get to the root of the problems between them.

Can he force visitation if my almost 18 year old doesn't know him?

Bernadette's Question: The father of my 17 1/2 yr. old daughter has never had any type of contact with her. When she was 7, she wanted a relationship with him, and I reached out to him only to be rejected. Ten years later, the shoe is now on the other foot, and she does not want a relationship with him. I've tried explaining to her that this might be a good thing for her to finally get to know her father, but she is very adamant about not wanting to meet him. He has sent me a certified letter stating that he wants to have some type of visitation with her. Otherwise, he will take me to court. What are the chances he'll get visitation?

Brette's Answer: I agree with you that it might be a good thing for her to get to know her father. However she is too old for him to force it through the courts. He's likely to get nowhere. It's not really up to you - she's old enough that her opinion will be what the court listens to.

Can he stop support if my 18 year old refuses visitation?

Diane's Question: My daughter is 18 but still a senior in high school. I am taking my ex to court to continue the child support till she graduates as he stopped on his own when she turned 18. Does my daughter still have to see him? She doesn't want to as she is not comfortable with him as he drinks a lot. If she doesn't see him can he stop the child support?

Brette's Answer: Child support and visitation are two separate things. Also, visitation ends at age 18 when the child becomes an adult. At that point, it is up to the child and parent to continue their relationship as they wish.

Can they arrest me if I refuse visitation?

Phylenne's Question: Is there a law that protects a mom from being held responsible for the daughters' refusal to go with dad on visitation? My children refuse to visit their father because they are afraid of him. He has previously used his own flesh and blood for sex for his buddies in the past. I have to represent myself because I haven't found a lawyer who has time for our case. His lawyer said, at the admit/deny hearing, that it is their plan to lock me up at the hearing and pick up my daughters. Their dad is rated 100 percent mentally disabled, and has a record of being involuntarily committed to a psych ward for six months for harassing a woman. Help!

Brette's Answer: If you do not send your children on visitation, it is considered custodial interference which can be the grounds for a change in custody. Get an attorney and present your allegations to the court about why he should not have custody. Ask that a guardian ad litem be appointed to represent the children and their point of view so that the court can be made aware of why they don't want to go on visitation. Good luck. » Return to top

Custodial Parent Rights

Does he have a right to know how I spend my time with the kids?

Karen's Question: My ex is extremely verbally abusive and controlling. If the kids are with me, he wants to know what we doing 24-7, and will continue to call until I tell him. Do I have to tell him exactly where we are? He keeps threatening to call the police if I don't tell him.

Brette's Answer: Neither parent must account to the other how they spend their time with the children. You're both independent adults and not beholden to the other. In this instance, I think a phone call by your attorney to his attorney might take care of it. If not, it's clear there are some underlying issues. You might have to go to court to get an order restraining him from calling, or designating the number of calls that is allowed per day.

Do I have a right to know where my kids are during visitation?

Julie's Question: I am the custodial parent, and there has never been any court ordered visitation. Do I have the right to know where my ex takes my children, and whom he leaves them with? I feel as their mother I should have the right to know where my children are. If the house burned down with everyone in it, no one would have any idea to notify me, and I would have no idea that my children were harmed.

Brette's Answer: I am concerned first that you have no court order for visitation. You need one, so that there are limits on this situation. You most certainly need to know where they are. They ought to be with your ex, and if they are not on a regular basis, there needs to be a change in visitation. Talk to an attorney.

Can he take our son out of state without my permission?

Sharae's Question: My ex-husband and I have joint legal custody and I have sole physical custody. He has our son every other weekend and up to 2 months each year for vacation time, but only two weeks at a time. Can he take our son out of state without agreeing with me first?

Brette's Answer: In most states unless there is a specific provision against this, yes.

Do I need written consent for an out of state vacation?

Vanese's Question: My divorce states that neither party shall take the children out of the state without expressed written consent of the other party. Does that apply to vacations?

Brette's Answer: Yes it does unless there is an exception written in for that.

How can I prevent my ex from taking my son out of the state?

Christina's Question: I have temporary sole custody of my 4 year old son. His Dad picked him up for visitation and flew him out of state to go deep sea fishing, without telling me about his plans. What rights do I have, and can I prevent this from happening in the future?

Brette's Answer: You can go back to court to get the custody order modified to say he can't take the child out of the state without your permission. It's pretty standard language.

Do I have a right to know who lives with my ex?

Angela's Question: After my daughter arrived back home from visitation with her father, she told me that daddy had a new friend that stayed with them the entire time. I asked my ex-husband for some basic information about his girlfriend and he told me her first name, but he would not tell me her last name or what she does for a living. Don't I have the right to know the people who will be around my daughter? He also refuses to tell me where he lives so I have no idea where they are during the visit. What are my rights?

Brette's Answer: Your ex isn't required to tell you anything about what he does, unless your court order or agreement specifically directs him to do so. I think you should go to court and ask to at least have his address - that is a basic piece of information. If you don't want a girlfriend there, you can ask the court to direct him not to have overnight guests while your child is there.

What if his girlfriend wants to start spending time with my kids?

Kristen's Question: I found out that my ex started dating one of my good friends a month after our divorce was finalized. She was a bridesmaid at my wedding! This is a person who I got jobs, helped whenever I could, and LOVED. They have been dating over a year at this point and she wants to be able to spend time with my children. I feel betrayed by this woman - who basically worked her way into a life that she ultimately stole from me. I fear she will try to do the same with my children (they are almost 4 and 5). What can I do? I also should mention that my children have always known her as my friend - not sure how they will react to seeing mommy's friend with daddy - when they wonder why mommy and daddy can't be together!

Brette's Answer: I understand your concerns, but your ex has a right to spend time with his kids and have a relationship with him. And unless this woman presents a danger to the children, he can have her around them. In fact, because they know her, it will probably be much less upsetting than if he were involved with someone they had never met. If she is going to be a permanent fixture in his life, it is reasonable that the children should see her and adjust to her. Your kids are too young to think it's weird that their dad is dating their mom's friend.

Can we include a restriction our kids not be around significant others?

Anita's Question: My husband has decided to live with another woman and their lives are filled with partying and irresponsibility. Their lifestyle is inappropriate for my children to be around. I want to know if we can stipulate in our divorce a restriction that our children are not to be around any of our new significant others? I just feel like my children have already suffered enough emotional stress.

Brette's Answer: Yes, it's common to include a provision like that in a parenting plan; however I have to warn you it often doesn't work out. First, it's unlikely your husband is going to agree to it and it often become unworkable if he is living with the person.

Can I request he can't live with someone else until married?

KaLynn's Question: My ex and I are having a hard time agreeing on where his visitation with our 3 year old child should take place. He is already living with his mistress and wants visitation to occur at her house. I want to request in our decree that there cannot be any overnight stays with his girlfriend while my child is present until they get married, even though he lives there. Could I request the visits take place at a different location instead like his Mother's? Could I even request he can't live with someone else until married?

Brette's Answer: You can ask for anything you want, it will be up to the judge to decide if it is warranted. You're going to need some good reasons to ask for these things, other than just your own discomfort.

Will a judge dictate who can be near the children?

Lisa's Question: Can a judge put a restraining order on a spouse's lover due to her husband's request to keep the lover away from his kids? Is this legal and should the wife do the same if the husband is found to be seeing someone also?

Brette's Answer: A judge can dictate who can be near the children, particularly if the person in question poses a threat to the well-being of the children or creates a dangerous environment. Sometimes this is done to try to calm things down and allow the children time to adjust to things. You can certainly ask for a reciprocal order if you want. Good luck.

Can he get a "no shack-up" clause if I've lived with my boyfriend for 15 months?

Jennifer's Question: Can my ex modify our decree to add the no shack up clause even though I've already been living with my boyfriend for 15 months?

Brette's Answer: Only the judge can modify an order and if your ex is asking for this, you have the chance to respond and tell the judge the situation.

What does no romantic companion at all in my order mean?

Sonya's Question: Can my romantic companion be around my children? It states in my order no romantic companion at all. Does that mean my companion cannot see the kids in public places? Also, how about when it's their birthday party, etc. at someone else's home?

Brette's Answer: If your order says your companion cannot be around your child, then that means ever. To change this, you need to file for a modification of the order.

What if his girlfriend spends the night if the parenting plan prohibits it?

Nicole's Question: My ex-husband is using his Christmas visitation for the first time. He told me he will be taking our daughter out of state for a week with his girlfriend. Our divorce papers say that he cannot have our daughter overnight if his girlfriend is there. My daughter does not want to go and I am really nervous about her being away from me that long especially since she would be on the other side of the country. Can I just refuse to let her go?

Brette's Answer: If that is what he plans and it violates the order you should go back to court and have it straightened out there if at all possible because the last thing you want is for him to call the police and have to try to get them to understand.

Can I stop overnight visits if his girlfriend is sleeping there?

Linda's Question: Do I have any rights to tell my husband that he cannot have the kids spend the night with him if his girlfriend is also sleeping there? I do not think it is healthy for them to be staying with another woman that is not their mother.

Brette's Answer: Unless your order prohibits it, no. This is a problem a lot of mothers deal with. You're both going to move on with your lives and you may not always agree with how he moves forward. A girlfriend might be something the kids need to get used to, but it doesn't mean she is dangerous. Good luck.

How can I prevent my kids from being around his girlfriend?

Heather's Question: After 12 years of marriage and 4 children together, my husband told me that he didn't love me anymore and left me for another woman. Now we are getting a divorce, and he wants the children to be with him and this woman every weekend. I can't imagine having my kids be around her, especially my youngest son and my baby girl. Is there anything I can do about this? Can I include a condition that he not introduce the kids to her for a period of 2-3 months? It drives me crazy thinking about.

Brette's Answer: I know how hard this is. First of all, the amount of visitation time will be decided by the judge, so try not stress over that right now. However, you are going to have to learn to get over your resentment of his girlfriend. It would be rare for a custody agreement to state how long a person has to wait to introduce a significant other. As far as the court is concerned, he has every right to have a relationship with her and as long as she is not a dangerous person, it isn't harmful for the children. That isn't to say it isn't difficult for them and for you, but this is something you have to learn to live with. I know that's easy to say but not so easy to do, but it is the reality of your situation.

Do I have to let his girlfriend pick the kids up for visitation?

Amy's Question: My ex-husband wants his girlfriend (whom he left me for) to drive our children from my home in Connecticut to Philadelphia, where he lives (a 4-5 hour drive). I am the custodial parent, and I am fine with HIM driving, but I don't know or trust HER. I am trying to "play nice" and he is telling me to get a lawyer.

Brette's Answer: You are not required to hand your kids over to anyone but their father unless there is a court order stating otherwise. If he wants to take you back to court, that's his choice, but he will lose. Now, the other side of this is why don't you want to allow this? If you don't trust her, I think that's a good reason. If she has no relationship with the kids, that's another good reason. But is this true or are you trying to just be difficult? I would ask you that question. It is good to cooperate with the other parent, but if you have serious concerns about this, then you should stand your ground.

When your ex shifts childcare responsibilities to someone else

Amy's Question: My ex has set visitations with our 6 year old which have been going good until he got engaged. Now our child spends more time with the new girlfriend on visitations than with her father. Is that right or fair to our child?

Brette's Answer: This is a common problem I ran into when I was a law guardian. Some fathers tend to shift child care responsibilities to their girlfriends. Is it right? No. Is there much you can do about it? No. The best plan is to have a calm and reasonable conversation with your ex and simply let him know that your child is interested in spending time with him during visitation. It is also possible that although you are hearing more about the girlfriend than the dad, your ex may be there and involved, but your child is reporting about the girlfriend because she is new. You can't always rely on what your child tells you because it can be skewed and not the whole truth. Talk to your ex in a non-accusatory way and express your concern and try to get a picture for what is going on.

Does his new wife have any rights as a step parent?

Krystal's Question: My ex and I have been divorced for over a year and he has now remarried. The three of us do not get along and I don't feel comfortable when she comes to get my kids to bring them to their dad. Do I have to let them go with her? Does she have any rights as a step parent?

Brette's Answer: No. Your ex is the one who has visitation rights. I understand your concerns, however they are married and if you refuse to allow it you're really creating a hostile situation with him. It's your right to do so, but she could be around for many years, so the sooner you learn to cooperate with her, the better for your child.

I don't want him having my daughter around his wife

Erin's Question: I have a 2 month old daughter with a man that was married and apparently still with his wife, which I had no idea about.... He only sees her about 2-3 times a week for an hour or two. Will he get to take her over nights or visitations without my supervision? I don't want him having my daughter around his wife, not saying she would allow this but who knows.

Brette's Answer: Eventually he would have overnights unless there is some reason not to. His wife is part of his life and as long as she poses no risk to the child, being around her would be approved by the court.

Can my ex refuse to let my spouse pick our son up for visitation?

M's Question: Can my ex-wife stop my new wife from flying home to get my son for my visitation time? My ex-wife and I are currently on bad terms and I'm afraid that she won't let my new wife fly home and pick him up and fly him back out here for my summer visitation. Can she legally do this?

Brette's Answer: Yes, because visitation belongs to you and you only. You can't delegate it without agreement or without a court order allowing someone else to do the pick-up.

Do I have to let his wife pick up the kids for visitation?

Liz's Question: My custody decree states that my ex is to be present to pick up the children for visitation. He has been sending his wife to pick up kids for the last year, telling me he was training for a new job. I agreed to do this for 2 or 3 months, but haven't had guts to say it has been long enough due to his abuse. Last month I had to get a protective order against him. At the hearing, the judge said I have to let his wife pick up the kids, even though our decree doesn't say that. Can one judge tell me to break the order of another judge? And do I have to let them go?

Brette's Answer: The visitation order stands as written and perhaps the other judge did not see the actual order. However, because you allowed the wife to do pick up, it is likely the family court will say you've ignored the order and don't have the grounds to enforce it now. You can certainly try, but given the fact that you're having problems interacting, it might make sense to stay away from each other and have someone else be an intermediary for pick-ups.

Do I have to let my baby go with his girlfriend if he won't be there?

Michelle's Question: Do I have to let my 14 month old go with my ex-husband's girlfriend for visitation even though he will not be there?

Brette's Answer: No. Visitation is for the parent. If he's not available, it's not required.

How do we handle exchanges if there is a restraining order?

Kendra's Question: My fiancé and I are getting married in September. He and his ex-wife have a child together who is 5, and have joint legal custody with her having residential custody. She recently came into our home and tried to attack me and got charged with trespassing, disorderly conduct, and battery. Now there is a no contact order. How do we handle visitation exchanges?

Brette's Answer: There is no reason she can't pull into the driveway or up to the curb and the child could walk out and get into the car, avoiding contact with you. » Return to top

What can I do if the step mom treats my son badly?

Summer's Question: What can I do to keep my 9 year old son from having dramatic visitation with his dad? My ex has been married to his current wife now for about 3 years. She has some serious anger and jealousy issues with my son. My son's stepmother never speaks to him when he is there and they are always fighting when my son is there over him. He is not allowed to attend his father's other children's birthday parties. It has really gotten out of hand. What can I do?

Brette's Answer: I think the best way to start to deal with this is find a time to talk with your ex. You need to have a non-confrontational talk with him. Tell him you're concerned about your son and want to work together to help him.

It sounds like there is turmoil in your ex's home. A lot of families experience turmoil. I'm concerned that your son's stepmother seems to have some issues with him. The best way to solve that would be for the entire family to see a counselor together. I wonder if it might be possible for you to get to know the stepmom and become a bit friendly with her. This might help her see that your son is not the enemy. Maybe you could work together to iron out problems.

It's important to remember there are usually two sides to every story, particularly when told by a 9 year old. I'm not discounting your son's version of the events, I'm suggesting there might be more to it and perhaps you could try to find out what. If your son is truly miserable there, then you could seek to have visitation modified, perhaps reducing the length of time he is there. I don't think it would be a good idea to try to end all visitations. Your son undoubtedly needs his father in his life. I think the best plan is to find out how to make that happen with as little conflict as possible.

Can the court make his girlfriend move out?

Chanel's Question: A month after my husband moved out, I found out that he has a girlfriend who stays the night. I am concerned because I have seen a change in my little girl - she is extremely clingy and insecure. My daughter now has to share what little time she has with her dad with this woman and her boy. I feel it is detrimental to my daughter and that he is putting his sexual needs first, but he tells me it's none of my business! Is there any way I can prevent this woman from coming around, and can I ask the court to stop this?

Brette's Answer: This is actually a common situation. The thing you have to remember is that a court is interested in what is in your child's best interest, period. No parent creates a perfect home life or situation. The question is whether the situation as it is now is in some way harmful to your daughter.

I completely understand why you are uncomfortable with this situation. However, I'll tell you from experience that the court is not going to order your ex to move his girlfriend out. He has a right to live with her if he wants to. And as long as your daughter is in no danger there, it's really unlikely any changes will be made.

You may be able to reduce the time he spends with her. Is he actually there all the time she is at his house or is the girlfriend babysitting her? This is an important point because the visitation time is meant for him to use personally. If he's not using it, it could be reduced. Your other option is to take her to see a therapist who could potentially testify that this arrangement is in some way harming her.

I recommend you get an attorney, but I also recommend you take a deep breath and realize that your ex is going to go on with his life and you can't change that.

Can I stop visitation if his girlfriend is harassing me?

Shannon's Question: Can I stop my ex from having our daughter around his new girlfriend if she has threatened and harassed me? She is unstable and has threatened me by text and followed me in her car to harass me.

Brette's Answer: Her treatment of you and your child are completely separate. If she has not harmed or threatened your child, there is nothing you can do.

What can I do if his girlfriend treats our children badly?

Robin's Question: I have full legal custody of my children, and their father has visitation rights of every other weekend. He lives with his girlfriend, and she screams and cusses at our children. This causes times of depression and disappointment with their dad because he allows it to happen. I can find no help thru the state or the county without having to take their dad back to court. How can I protect my children from this mental abuse and not get in trouble with the visitation court order?

Brette's Answer: The only way to change this is to go back to court. You would need evidence that this is what is happening. You could take your kids to a therapist and see if that is helpful.

Can my ex stop visitation if I'm living with my boyfriend?

Ana's Question: Can my ex-husband remove all the visitation rights from me, if I am living with my boyfriend now?

Brette's Answer: No. Your ex has no power to decide anything about your rights. Only the court can decide that. Your time with your children is your time. He doesn't get to decide how you spend it or who is there. If all of or much of your parenting time is spent without you present, then there is a problem.

Stipulations about Overnight Guests

Sue's Question: My divorce was over a cheating husband. At the time, my 12 year old daughter did not want to stay every other weekend with her father at his girlfriend's house. Needless to say, the divorce got messy because I voiced this concern. Because I voiced this, my ex-husband decided to add this to our divorce decree that I could not have any overnight guests (male or female) while my children are present. I have been in a 2 year relationship with a man who does stay periodically when the children are present. My ex keeps threatening me that he will take me back to court if this continues. They are very attached to my boyfriend and our home life is very happy once again. If my ex takes me back to court, will I lose this case because it's in my divorce decree? I could understand it if I was bringing a different man home every night, but this is a serious relationship. Now I regret signing the papers with this in them, but I did it at the time to protect my daughter who was having a very hard time accepting what had happened. Needless to say, he married her so it does not apply to him any longer. Please help!!

Brette's Answer: Technically it sounds like you are in violation of the order, although you need to speak to an attorney of your own to confirm that. There are a couple of avenues open to you. You and your ex could go to mediation and create a modification to the decree allowing either of you to have overnight guests, which would have to be approved (read: rubber stamped) by a judge. You could file a petition seeking to modify the order in court, or you could sit and wait for your ex to do something about it. Should he do something about it, the question is going to be not only whether you've violated the order (which you probably have) but, what effect this has had on your child and what effect it would have in the future. This is something the judge would need to decide. I'm not sure what your ex hopes to gain by pressing this point though. Do you allow your daughter to be with him when he is spending the night with a girlfriend? If there's quid pro quo here, I don't see what his beef is. I think you should try to talk to him rationally and reasonably and help him see that going back to court is just going to cost you both a lot of money, make things even more difficult between the two of you and possibly affect his relationship with your daughter. » Top of Child Visitation Rights page

How can I fight the false allegations against my boyfriend?

Nina's Question: I've been divorced from my abusive husband for almost ten years now, and am the non-custodial parent. I found someone who makes me happy and we've been together 8 years now. When my kids first met him, they really liked, but my ex got upset and felt threatened. As a result, my kids withdrew from me and fiancé and made allegations of abuse against him. My fiancé is not allowed to be around my kids at all. The allegations have been investigated, no proof was found and nothing was filed. How do I fight back against the false accusations?

Brette's Answer: Since the allegations were unfounded, that should not matter. The problem is the kids don't want to be with him. Depending on how old they are, that can affect the court's decision about custody. Are you seeking to change the custody arrangement or are you just upset about the allegations? If you're upset about the allegations there is nothing to do since they were unfounded. You might consider getting your kids into counseling to help them work through the problems.

Brette Sember - Legal Expert

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