So you have gone through the process of separation from your wife and now would like to know about visitation rights for fathers. As a responsible father, you would want to be involved in all facets of your child’s life. If the court orders have been completed, then you main go to document to understand your visitation rights as a father is the divorce decree.
What is a Divorce Decree?
Divorce decree is court’s final order which contains:
- The courts order to terminate the marriage
- The names of the parties,
- The date that the divorce becomes effective, and the terms that the parties may have agreed upon.
- Financial obligations for each party, if any
- Alimony amount
- Custody of children
- Visitation rights and conditions
Once the divorce decree is issued, it can only be altered for reasons associated with child visitation, alimony and child custody matters.
Visitation rights for fathers
When the mother is provided the custody by the judge, which is often the case, the fathers might be awarded reasonable visitation. But the friction comes when neither party agrees with a mutual definition of reasonable visitation.
What does “reasonable visitation” mean?
When a judge orders reasonable visitation as part of the finals settlement, it would not spell the timings of the visit to see the child. Instead the court relies on mother and the father of the child to work out amiably a suitable time as part of the reasonable visitation.
There are however cases when fathers struggle to have reasonable visitation agreed by the mother to see their child. Things get more complex when the age of the child is also require to keep in perspective. For instance, a toddler can only have visits when he is awake with rare overnights. If the children are grown up, then reasonable visitation may be longer.
In lot of cases, court orders fixed visitation schedule, just to tackle the misinterpretation and disagreement between mother and the father. Fixed visitation schedules are very detailed and contains :
- The day and time of the father’s visitation schedule
- Where the child will spend holidays and birthdays.
- Where child exchange occurs
This approach often works well for fathers as there is barely any room for the mother to disagree on or manipulate on.
Standard holiday visitation schedule
Some of the state wise holiday visitation schedules are:
- Standard holiday visitation schedule as per Texas family law
- Standard holiday visitation schedule as per Tulsa County
- Standard holiday visitation schedule as per California law
- Standard holiday visitation schedule as per Ohio state Law
Standard visitation in case of Abuse
In several cases father’s are apprehensive of the visitation as the child has gone through physical abuse from the mother and in some cases he himself has also been on the receiving end of the same. This can be contested in the court when the judge is finalizing visitation. The same can also be contested after the incident has happened post divorce settlement.
But if you know there has been a historic pattern of physical and emotional abuse, its best to have evidence of the same to present in your legal procedures. This may include police reports, medical records, or testimony from people that know you and can speak about the abuse.
If the child still exhibits symptoms of abuse or trauma, as a father you should take your child to a therapist or mental health professional to undergo an evaluation. In disputed cases, the judge may order another therapist to evaluate your child to get a second opinion.
If the court feels that the child can be in an abusive situation, all such visits from the non custodial parent will be supervised. This means whenever a non custodial parent comes to visit his child, there will be an adult present in addition to the custodial parent, to prevent any likely abuse.
This other person could be someone agreed upon by the parents of the child, or sometimes it is a person that is appointed to the role by the court. However, all supervisors must be approved by the court before he or she can fill their role.
Minimum visitation rights fathers
There will be cases when fathers while living away and not having custody of the child, will not be able to make time during the allocated visitation rights. This bound to happen at times as you try and balance work and life after separation.
In such cases, mothers who have the child custody will try and modify the visitation rights against fathers citing the unavailability of the father. How ever, this has a mixed response.
Even though this might not be in the best interest of the child who wants his father as much as is mother, the intent should be to bring the father back in child’s life to assure the presence of both parents.
The child may suffer the emotional stress or trauma of feeling unloved or unwanted. That said, some states have broadly addressed this concern by statute.
In Tennessee for instance, a Court may deviate upward from statutory guideline support due to a non-custodial parent’s failure to exercise defined parenting time. Not all states have agreed with this concept, and some courts have held that a Court cannot coerce a parent to become more involved by threatening a greater child support obligation.
But what does stats say on Visitation rights for fathers?
We studied the data on fathers spending time on basic parenting duties regardless of their marriage status, to determine the importance of their visitation rights.
Below are some of the stats comparing fathers time on parenting between married and divorced parents.
- While married fathers spend 6.5 hours per week doing parenting activity like cooking, helping with home work and taking them to bed.
- Married mothers spend close to 6 hours doing the parenting activities.
In case of divorced fathers:
- Fathers spend far less time on basic parenting duties. For instance, roughly 22 percent of fathers see their children once a week.
- Further 29 percent see their children, less then 4 times per month.
- Most concerning stat is that 27 percent of divorced fathers have absolutely no contact with their children.
It is curious to see that children with divorced fathers in their life as less likely to be in poverty in comparison to mothers. While 30 percent of children with divorced mothers are in poverty, only 19 percent of the children with divorced fathers are in poverty.
It can be derived that, even though child custody for fathers is a tough battle, exercising fair amount of visitation rights by fathers can only be beneficial for the child.
It can be seen that resident fathers spend only a small fraction of the time they would normally spend with their children in common activities important for fostering a healthy parent-child relationship, like reading and helping the child with their homework.
Resident fathers spend about six times as long doing these ultra-important activities with their children than non-resident fathers.
Conclusion on visitation rights for fathers
It would be an understatement to say that family law is complex. More so when it varies from state to state and with both parents not at amiable terms, there are cases when absolute divorce terms and visitation schedules need constant tweaking to suit the involved child’s needs.
In such situations, its best to get in touch with an experienced attorney who can navigate you through the challenges and uncertainties of visitation rights for fathers.
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