North Carolina parents live busy lives, and sometimes it’s hard to juggle schedules and – for non-custodial parents — this might cause them to miss a designated child visitation time. However, other times, missing parenting time with one’s children is the result of that parent’s irresponsibility and/or lack of interest in his or her children. In North Carolina, these cases will force the custodial parent to face the following dilemma: Should parents take legal action that causes consequences for the non-custodial parent when he or she constantly misses scheduled child visitation? By and large, the answer to this question is “no.”
Child psychologists and North Carolina courts recognize how important it is for children to know and spend time with both of their parents. Indeed, when a custodial parent takes action to limit the other parent’s time with his or her children after failing to show up, the children will primarily be the ones to suffer the consequences. Children need time with a parent to bond and grow a relationship. When time with a sporadically absent parent is taken away, the children may see it as the parent pushing them away rather than as a method of protection by the custodial parent.
As such, most divorce and family law attorneys will argue that — rather than shielding the children from the actions of the absent parent more than he or she already is — a better solution is to try to bring the absent parent back into the children’s lives. If successful, this better serves the best interests of the children. It prevents them from feeling rejected by the visiting parent, or betrayed by the custodial parent.
Can a parent deny another parent visitation?
A custodial parent can bring an action in the family court to modify visitation if he or she can show that there has been a substantial change in circumstances that affects the best interests of the child. That said, a parent cannot unilaterally choose to withhold his or her child from seeing the parent who has visitation established through the court. That would constitute a violation of the court order, even if you believe you are doing it to protect your child.
The issues of child support and visitation are completely separate. Often a custodial parent will be under the misguided belief that if the other parent falls behind on paying child support, or even willfully refuses to pay, that he or she forfeits the right to visitation with his or her child.
What is considered parental interference?
Parental interference is pretty much what it sounds like. One parent attempting to disrupt another parent’s relationship with their child. It can occur on either side and in multiple ways, such as:
- A non-custodial parent being blocked from exercising his or her child visitation.
- A parent who is exercising visitation refuses to return the child to the custodial parent.
- Attempts to exercise visitation outside the parameters set by the custody order.
- Refusing to take calls from the non-custodial parent who is attempting to speak with his or her child under the terms of the order.
- Disparaging the other parent to the child, or allowing others to do so.
- Taking the child out of the area during visitation when the order prohibits it.
These actions provide grounds for filing a contempt action against the parent who violates the court order.
Contempt actions for withholding court ordered child visitation can also include a request for relief by way of modifying the custody order. If a non-custodial parent can make a solid argument that his or her relationship with the child has been damaged, or that you are intentionally interfering with the parent-child relationship, you risk a change in custody, or at the very least being held in contempt of court. Depending upon how egregious the circumstances are, consequences can range from losing custody to being jailed.
Do parents have to meet halfway for visitation?
Once custody and visitation are sorted out, and you begin scheduling your child’s visits with his or her non-custodial parent, you have logistical details to be resolved. Sometimes the court will specifically address these details, other times it will be left up to the parties to work out in a reasonable manner they can mutually agree upon.
Usually an issue of meeting halfway to exchange a child for visitation arises when the parents live a distance apart. Nothing in the law requires parents to meet at a halfway point. However, a judge can establish that as a rule for visitation, and sometimes will ask that designated meeting points be provided by the parties to incorporate into the order.
There are various online and app-based tools that parties can use to locate an exact halfway point with little effort. They allow parties to plug in both of their addresses and the program determines the midway point. They also allow you to specify the type of location where you’d like to meet, such as a coffee shop or gas station, or the apps will offer suggested locations.
North Carolina non-custodial parents who fear that they may lose their visitation rights after missing their scheduled visitation should discuss their legal options with a highly qualified Charlotte family law attorney to protect their right to child visitation.
At Epperson Law Group, PLLC, we believe that parents who want the best for their children should be afforded the chance to be there for them. To schedule your consultation in our Charlotte, Boone or Weddington office, call 704-321-0031 or we invite you to reach out to us through our contact page.