What if a Non-Custodial Parent Does Not Exercise Visitation?



South Carolina law envisions that both parents will be involved in their children’s lives. For that reason, the noncustodial parent should receive ample visitation, even if they live far away. It isn’t unusual for children to spend months during the summer with a parent who has moved out of South Carolina. If the parents happen to live near each other, then the non-custodial parent should have regular visitation, perhaps every week.


But what if a non-custodial parent does not exercise visitation? Sometimes, parents can’t make visitation through no real fault of their own. In other cases, however, they might deliberately avoid their children. Below, our Aiken, SC child custody lawyer reviews what will happen if you find yourself in one of these situations.


The Occasional Missed Visit

Parents have busy lives. The noncustodial parent might have a demanding job which requires that he or she drop everything and work on the weekend. Even though the non-custodial parent wants to see the children, they sometimes can’t.


In this situation, nothing might happen. You should look at your visitation schedule to see if you have a clause that relates to this situation. For example, the parent might get a makeup visitation at another time. Or they might tack on extra days to a school vacation.


You should keep track of the days missed. Don’t assume you have to immediately transport the children at a day and time that works for the other parent.


Regular Tardiness Picking Up the Children

If the other parent is continually late, you should speak up about it. We recommend taking the following steps:

  • Ask the other parent why they are late. They might have a good reason—or maybe they don’t. Never assume the worst until you hear their reason.

  • Consider changing the hand-off time. For example, if the other parent can’t get there at noon, change the time to 2:00 PM. Think about whether this works with your schedule.

  • Firmly tell the other parent that you won’t wait around any longer. They either need to be there to pick up the kids or you’re leaving.

  • Document that they are late. For example, you might use your phone to make a short video of you waiting for them to arrive. This evidence can prove helpful later.

Ultimately, you might need to engage in dispute resolution with a tardy parent. Some parenting plans call for mediation to resolve disputes involving custody. In mediation, you can discuss changing the time that the noncustodial parent picks up the kids.


What if a Non-Custodial Parent Does Not Exercise Visitation?

Some parents aren’t late to visit. They simply never show up or call. This parent might be trying to cut you out of their life. You should meet with an attorney to discuss steps.


For example, you might ask the judge to modify custody. A judge could limit the other parent’s access to the children or change the visitation schedule. Some judges might order that the absent parent attend parenting classes to help them better appreciate the important role they play in their child’s life.

Ultimately, some parents simply move on with their lives, which is devastating for your children. But if the parent still pays child support, there is not a whole lot you can do legally. The state can’t force someone to take on the parental role. Financially support a child? Yes. But love a child and be involved in their life? No.


In the event you are thinking of getting married, talk with your lawyer about stepparent adoption. If the noncustodial parent has abandoned a relationship, you might seek to terminate their parental rights. That would allow your new spouse to adopt your children.


When Children Refuse to Go on Visitation

We see this happen with some frequency. It isn’t the parent who avoids visitation but, your child who doesn’t want to visit. It’s difficult growing up, and many teens in particular try to get out of visitation.

You actually need to step carefully here. For one thing, you don’t want the other parent to allege you are trying to keep the children away from them. Don’t encourage your children to skip visitation. Don’t badmouth the other parent or make fun of them. If you do, then a judge might even change custody because you are engaging in parental alienation. Instead, explain to your children the importance of visitation. State the other parent loves them and wants to see them.


Children sometimes legitimately need to miss visitation. As an example, your child might get sick. There is no sense sending a sick child to visit another household where they can simply spread their germs. You should promptly contact the other parent to discuss why your child wants to skip visitation. Try to be accommodating.


As children grow, their interests change. Some start participating in afterschool activities like band or sports. If so, you should discuss changing the visitation schedule with the other parent. Parents can often find a way to make it work while allowing their kids to participate in fun activities.


Can a Lawyer Help?

Yes. Sometimes, parents can address missed visitation on their own. It’s not unusual for there to be some confusion in the early stages of co-parenting. After a while, everyone settles down to a consistent schedule.


In other cases, however, we need to involve the courts. This is particularly true when a parent is regularly late to visitation or is trying to get make up days and change the visitation schedule unilaterally.


Contact Us to Learn More

Parenting isn’t easy. Shuttling children between two households takes dedication and a commitment to doing what’s best for your kids, even when you really don’t want to.

At Surasky Law, we work with many parents before and after divorce. We have years of experience seeking modifications to child custody orders, and we might be of assistance if you are arguing with the noncustodial parent about visitation. To speak with our attorney, please call us today or reach out online.

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