After a separation or divorce, the parents of a minor child may have to divide custody and visitation rights. Child custody provides for the rights and obligations of each parent in raising their children. Child custody and visitation schedules can be decided by the parents or the courts.
When parents agree on child custody and visitation schedules, the parents can develop their own custody agreement, separation agreement, or consent order. However, if the parents cannot come to an agreement on child visitation terms, they may need to go to court.
The basis for all child custody and visitation decisions in the North Carolina family courts is what “will best promote the interest and welfare of the child.” The court can consider all relevant factors in making child custody and visitation decisions, with a focus on the child's safety.
Reasonable Visitation Rights in North Carolina
Equal shared custody is not always practical for parents. When one parent has custody of the child, the other parent still has the right to visitation with his or her child. Visitation rights are based on the best interests of the child and the child's safety. However, visitation schedules are often based on more practical factors, including the child's schedule, child's age, distance between the parents, and work schedules.
When parents are able to maintain a good relationship after a separation, they can often accommodate changing schedules to allow for shared parenting times. However, in a contested child custody case, the court may have to establish a visitation schedule to ensure each parent has some guaranteed parenting time. Visitation schedules can vary from dividing time evenly to giving specific dates to each parent based on a number of factors, including:
- Summer school breaks
- School vacations
- Holiday schedules
- Work schedules
Visitation schedules can also provide for non-physical visitation, such as phone or video-chat times. Increasingly, electronic communication is used to maintain contact between people, including parents and children. When one parent tries to restrict phone, email, or internet communication between a child and the non-custodial parent, the non-custodial parent may need to provide for this type of visitation in their visitation orders.
In some situations, a parent may have restricted visitation rights. This includes cases where one parent has full legal and physical custody of the child. Sole custody often involves situations where one parent has a history of abuse, substance abuse, or are not involved in the child's life.
A parent with a history of abuse or neglect may still be allowed supervised visitation with their child. With supervised visitation, a family member may have to be present at all times when the visiting parent is with the child. If there is no qualifying family member available, an agency representative may be present to monitor the interactions between the non-custodial parent and the child.
Violating Child Visitation Orders
Even after the parents or the court comes up with a custody and visitation plan, parents may still find the other parent violating the visitation orders. Violating custody and visitation orders can be punished by a fine, contempt of court charges, or even criminal penalties.
If the other parent violates the child visitation orders you need to take up the issue with the court. You may be able to file an action to enforce the court orders or change the visitation schedule. Do not take matters into your own hands or you may find yourself in violation of the court orders.
Grandparents' Visitation Rights
Child custody plans and visitation rights generally apply to parents. However, in some cases, other relatives, including grandparents, may be given visitation rights. Under N.C. Gen. Stat. § 50-13.2(b1), a child custody order may provide visitation rights for any grandparent as the court deems appropriate.
Visitation rights for grandparents are generally only available in limited situations. This includes situations where the biological grandparents' child is adopted by a stepparent or relative of the child where a substantial relationship exists between the grandparent and child.
Jerkins Family Law
If you are having child visitation disputes or the child's other parent is violating the visitation schedule, Jerkins Family Law is here to help. We can help you negotiate a child visitation schedule that protects your relationship with your child. Located in Raleigh, North Carolina, Jerkins Family Law is committed to helping our clients in their time of need. Contact us today and see how we can help you and your family.