When a divorce takes place, New Jersey courts consider the children’s best interest as a highly important factor in the proceedings. Maintaining the parental relationship is considered to be part and parcel of the children’s best interest, unless proof is submitted that one parent represents a danger to the children. Child visitation, then, is a key tool in nurturing that relationship, particularly when one parent has sole custody. “Parenting time” refers to periods the non-custodial parent is allowed to spend with the child, and it is decided during divorce proceedings. In particular, the divorcing individuals will need to agree on a child visitation schedule. All things being equal, equitable visitation schedules But what if the custodial parent later goes back on their word? Can they outright refuse child visitation time in the absence of a court order? This blog will explore that question, so please read carefully. If you are concerned about child visitation and custody in a divorce you fear may be imminent, contact a Sussex County child visitation attorney as soon as you can.
What Kinds of Custody Does New Jersey Recognize?
Before we can answer our question regarding what the custodial parent can do, we’ll need to first explain what custody is.
In New Jersey, as well as the United States more generally, legal custody is the ability to make significant decisions about a child’s health, education, religion, safety, and welfare. Legal custody can then be divided into joint legal custody (when parents share a say in deciding for the child) and sole legal custody (when only one parent can make decisions for the child).
Next, we have residential or physical custody, which identifies the caretaker with whom the child lives. This parent is known as the custodial parent, and they are the sole custodial parent when their home is the child’s primary residence. As for the non-custodial parent, the child might spend two days a week or less with them. And though rare given the impracticalities of adjusting time for the child to live in two homes, joint physical custody also exists.
Can the Custodial Parent Refuse Visitation?
Non-custodial parents do not have a right to a specific amount of time for child visitation. Often the divorcing individuals agree on a schedule for child visitation, or if they cannot, the court will make that decision by court order. Visitation schedules may focus on daytime, evening, overnight, weekend, and school break visits.
As New Jersey courts prioritize the child’s best interest, there are guidelines in place for child visitation. Both the custodial and non-custodial parent are allowed to and prohibited from doing specific things.
For instance, the non-custodial parent is allowed to keep in touch with their child, but they are forbidden from showing up unexpectedly at the custodial parent’s home and insisting on seeing the child.
On the other hand, the custodial parent is forbidden from withholding visitation. Either parent may request alterations to the court order, but in the absence of that, neither can violate the visitation schedule established in the current court order. If the custodial parent insists on denying the non-custodial parent visitation rights, the non-custodial parent may file a motion with the court to ask the court to enforce the visitation schedule, under threat of penalties if the custodial parent continues to withhold it.