Child Visitation

Visitation can be a contentious and emotional issue when it comes to deciding child custody matters. However, it’s important to be aware that under Pennsylvania law, every parent has the right to spend time with their biological child, regardless of marital status. When a parent does not have primary custody, they will have child visitation rights. An experienced child visitation lawyer can organize a visitation schedule in many different ways to ensure a child is able to spend quality time with each parent — and their best interests are met.

What is Child Visitation?

Courts generally assume that it is beneficial for a child to foster a relationship with each parent, unless it can be established that it would not be in the child’s best interests. Child visitation rights are defined as the non-custodial parent’s right to spend time with their child. It must be determined in cases where one parent has primary custody, or the parents share custody.

A visitation schedule is a key component of a custody arrangement. It should specify how parents will split their time with the child on weekdays, weekends, during school breaks, and during the holidays. In addition, it should clearly outline how custody exchanges will take place, which parent will provide transportation, and what happens if the child is too ill for visitation. Parents are free to reach a visitation arrangement on their own through mediation or negotiation with a child visitation lawyer — if they are unable to do so, a court will determine the outcome.

What is Supervised Visitation?

Courts value each parent’s relationship with their child. But there are certain circumstances under which it would not be in a child’s best interests to spend time alone with a parent. Supervised visitation refers to situations in which a qualified supervisor must be present when a parent is visiting with their child. Specifically, supervised visitation may only be ordered if the court determines that the non-custodial parent will endanger the child’s welfare, or they cannot provide a safe environment.

Common reasons supervised visitation may be ordered can include the following:

  • Instances of child abuse
  • Domestic violence has taken place
  • Child neglect has occurred
  • A parent has unmanaged mental illness
  • Substance abuse by the parent
  • A parent has engaged in harmful behavior toward the child

Supervised visitation may also be mandated in cases where a parent re-enters a child’s life following a long absence. When supervised visitation is ordered by a judge in Pennsylvania, the visits must be monitored by a third-party. This can be a family member, a social worker, or another adult. The visits take place at a specified location or a supervised visitation center. Supervised visits may be required until a parent completes a rehabilitation program or fulfills certain conditions — if they wish to obtain greater custody rights, they may petition the court for a modification.

Enforcing Child Visitation

Once a custody and visitation arrangement has been ordered by the court, it is legally binding — and neither parent may make changes without a new court order. In some cases, it may be necessary to enforce a custody and visitation arrangement in court. For instance, a parent may violate a custody order by withholding visitation or blocking communication with the other parent. If a parent violates the visitation provisions in a custody order, the other can file a Petition for Contempt with a Notice and Order to Appear to enforce the order.

If the court finds the parent to be in contempt, a number of sanctions can be imposed, including time in jail, probation, monetary fines, court costs, and attorney fees. A judge might also award custody to the parent who is not in violation of the order. In such cases, it’s crucial to keep detailed notes of all occurrences and communications with the other parent to document the violations. This can be used as evidence to prove your case.

Grandparents Rights

In Pennsylvania, a non-custodial parent is not the only party who has child visitation rights. Under the Grandparents Visitation Act, a child’s grandparents have automatic standing to bring a petition for visitation — also referred to as “partial custody” — under certain circumstances. For example, a grandparent may file for visitation if 1) the child’s parent is deceased (or both parents have passed away); 2) the child’s parents have been separate for at least six months or have filed for divorce; and 3) the child resided with the grandparent for a period of 12 months or more. A grandparent must also demonstrate that visitation would be in the child’s best interests and not interfere with the child’s relationship with their parents.

Contact an Experienced Pennsylvania Child Visitation Lawyer

If you have questions about your child's visitation rights or are facing a custody issue, it’s essential to have an experienced child visitation lawyer by your side. Berman & Associates offers compassionate counsel and skillful advocacy for child custody and visitation matters in Pennsylvania. Providing each client with the time and attention they deserve, we are dedicated to obtaining the best possible results. Located in Media, Pennsylvania, we serve clients in Delaware, Chester, and Montgomery Counties, as well as in the City of Philadelphia. We welcome you to contact us to schedule a consultation.