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Five Ways a Custodial Parent can be Sanctioned for Improperly Denying Visitation

As a matter of law in all states in the country, a noncustodial parent is presumed to be entitled to regular and recurring visitation or parenting time with a child. Regular visitation between a noncustodial parent and a child is considered to be in the best interests of that minor. Unfortunately, there are situations in which a custodial parent improperly interferes with or denies visitation between the noncustodial parent and child. There are five ways in which a court can sanction or punish a custodial parent from improperly interfering with or denying visitation:

  • Increase in parenting time or visitation
  • Award of attorney fees to noncustodial parent
  • Monetary penalty
  • Decrease in alimony or maintenance
  • Change in custody
Increase in Parenting Time or Visitation

One methodology employed by courts when a custodial parent interferes with visitation is to increase the amount of time the noncustodial parent is able to spend with the child. Public policy dictates that a noncustodial parent and child should have a meaningful relationship. An extension of visitation time under these types of circumstances are deemed punitive in regard to the custodial parent, but also provide a mechanism to enhance the relationship between the noncustodial parent and a child.

Award of Attorney Fees to Noncustodial Parent

Oftentimes, a noncustodial parent needs to resort to the court in order to enforce his or her parenting time or visitation. In many cases, a noncustodial parent retains an attorney to assist in such a situation. Indeed, when an existing parenting time order needs to be enforced, a parent is wise to seek experienced legal representation. As a result, a common sanction imposed on a custodial parent who interferes with the parent's visitation is an assessment of attorney fees spent by the noncustodial parent, which in turn are awarded to that noncustodial parent.

Monetary Penalty

Beyond attorney fees used as a sanction against a noncustodial parent who interferes with visitation, a court can also impose some type of monetary penalty on the custodial parent as well. The imposition of a monetary penalty might increase over time, as is discussed in greater detail in a moment.

Decrease in Alimony or Maintenance

A court might also consider reducing a custodial parent's alimony or spousal maintenance payments if that person interferes with visitation or parenting time. Despite a widespread belief otherwise, a court is not highly likely to reduce child support paid to a custodial parent who interferes with visitation. Child support payments are tendered to benefit the child and not the custodial parent. As a consequence, if a noncustodial parent should attempt to seek a reduction in child support because of a custodial parent's misconduct, a court is not likely to provide that relief because it is not apt to be considered in the best interests of a child.

A court can take a number of routes when it comes to alimony as a sanction for interference with parenting time. These include everything from a temporary reduction in alimony for a specified period of time to suspending alimony payments altogether, indefinitely or to a certain date.

Change in Custody

Finally, when it comes to sanctions imposed by a court when a custodial parent interferes with visitation or parenting time, the most severe penalty is a change in custody. In other words, the current custodial parent loses custody of the minor child in favor of the existing noncustodial parent. This type of custodial change must be deemed to be in the best interests of a child before a court will approve and order this alteration to occur.

Sanctions tend to be progressive

When it comes to penalizing a custodial parent for interference with or denial of parenting time or visitation, sanctions typically are progressive. In other words, if a custodial parent continues to interfere with parenting time or visitation, the penalties become more severe until the prospect of a change of child custody becomes a real possibility.

If you find yourself involved in issues surrounding parenting time or visitation, you are wise to consult promptly with a qualified, experienced attorney. The typical family law or child custody lawyer will schedule an initial consultation with a prospective client at no cost and no obligation. If you have any questions concerning the denial of visitation, call the Law Offices of Peter Van Aulen at 201-845-7400 for a free consultation.

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