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When Can You Deny Visitation to a Non-Custodial Parent?


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In divorce or separation settings, one parent may have more custody of their child(ren) than the other parent. That parent is typically known as the “custodial parent”, whereas the other is known as the “non-custodial parent”. In these types of arrangements, the non-custodial parent might be awarded visitation rights. Meaning there are scheduled times they can visit with the child(ren) and spend time with them.

Whereas visitation rights are usually awarded, the court could deny or limit visitation for a number of reasons. Common situations are when the court believes that the child could be in harms way because of the visitation. The court can refuse or limit visiting time if for say, the non-custodial parent:

  • Has molested the child;
  • Has the potential to kidnap the child; or
  • Is probably going to use illegal drugs or drink unreasonable amounts of alcohol when caring for the child.

There are additionally times when a custodial parent refuses the other parent visitation rights devoid of the court’s approval. Denying visitation to the other parent devoid of a court’s approval is illegal and may lead to severe legal consequences.

What are General Grounds for Denying Child Visitation?

There are some general grounds the custodial parent could deny the other parent their parental visitation rights. These can comprise of:

  • The non-custodial parent is refusing to pay child support;
  • Objection to other parent’s relationships, like a new partner (this typically is not a legitimate reason for denying visitation, unless the partner brings up a legitimate reason such as if their partner has a criminal record being a sex offender);
  • Drug and/or alcohol abuse;
  • Child abuse incarceration;
  • Fear of Kidnapping;
  • Religious discord; and
  • Child’s preferences, when the child is of age.

If there is a legitimate, court-authorized custody order in place, denying visitation is illegal and can have severe legal consequences for the parent that denies visiting rights.

In many jurisdictions, a custodial parent could legally deny visitation when the non-custodial parent could jeopardize exposing the child to instant bodily harm or emotional abuse. Nevertheless, the custodial parent is required to still take specific steps prior to denying visitation, like informing the appropriate authorities. This is typically only allowed under unique circumstances.

Am I Able to Request the Court to Deny Child Visitation?

Absolutely. Actually, this is the legally preferred approach for limiting visitation, even when the courts may not award such a petition. Don’t forget that family courts are bound to make decisions based on the best interest of the child. Therefore, judges are only going to permit the limitation or denial of visitational rights for very particular circumstances.

Nevertheless, some circumstances may create an interruption of visitation instead of permanent custody modification, like:

  • Violence or physical abuse towards the child(ren);
  • Parental kidnapping
  • Psychological abuse of the child(ren);
  • Substance abuse, specifically illegal substances;
  • Parental incarceration (although this could result in interruption instead of custody modification);
  • Excessive sexual behavior or exposure to such action in which might have a detrimental effect on the child.

Can You Lose Custody when You Deny the Other Parent Visitational rights?

A custodial parent may occasionally lose custody of their child by refusing the non-custodial parent their visitational rights devoid of a court order denying visitation. In any case, if a custodial parent doesn’t wish their children to be in contact with the non-custodial parent, they would then need to get the initial custody order modified by the court to deny the other parent visitational rights.

The whole process is required to be go through the court system and can’t be done exclusively at the parent’s own will or choice. When that parent declines to run through the court system and goes so far as to take away the child and conceal their location, they then run the very serious chance of forfeiting their custodial rights.

Is the Court Able to Penalize the Custodial Parent When They Deny Visitation?

This question is subject to state laws in addition to individual judges, although penalties for violating visitation agreements are not uncommon. Penalties are usually based on the regularity and period of denial.

Such penalties may comprise of:

  • Compensational visits for the non-custodial parent;
  • Interruption of child support; and
  • Modification of custody.

When is it Legal to Deny a Parent Child Visitation?

It is just about never legal for denying visitation without a formal court order. For example, if the non-custodial parent is behind on child support payments, then visitations must continue regardless unless the court says differently. You should parley the court if child support is an issue.

When the non-custodial parent is abusive or has very evident problems, like drinking and/or drug use, then it is preferred the custodial parent to get a hold of the police or other authorities to manage it. Generally, if there is an issue with one parent, the other parent should always seek the appropriate legal course of action instead of taking the law into their own hands.

How is Child Visitation Limited?

Limited visitation means that the visits happen only under supervision. Court judgments on visitation designates the terms of supervised visitation, and what responsibility the supervisor is required to have. Unsupervised visitation is typically not permitted until after the offending parent finishes an abuse prevention course and doesn’t turn aggressive for some time.

In many cases, you might deem that denying the other parent visitation is in your child’s best interest. In such cases, you would be required to examine the child custody laws in your state to establish if the refusal is allowed legally. You are also going to need to verify what the sufficient reasons to petition an alteration of your initial child custody orders are.

Courts require the petitioning parent to show evidence that the non-custodial parent has displayed behaviors that have hurt the child, like abusing or ignoring the child.

Can Child Visitation Rights Be Interrupted?

Visitation may also be interrupted under certain case. These comprise of:

  • Continual violations of the visitation terms;
  • The child is gravely strained because of the visitation; or
  • There are clear signs that the aggressive parent has threatened to harm the child or run away with the child.

Visitational rights are not guaranteed and can be interrupted, refused, or limited if the court determines that such changes are in the best interest of the child.

How Do I Impose My Visitation Rights?

When you are being refused your legal right to visitation, you have a multitude options. If you can get in contact the custodial parent, you might initially want to try to contact them to find out the reason they are denying visitation.

If this doesn’t settle the matter, you can think about taking the following steps:

  • Record the Violation: You should attempt to create a record of the denial of visitation. For example, you can make a note of the date and location in which a custody exchange was supposed to occur but did not;
  • Get a Hold of the Authorities: When you have a copy of the court visitation order, you are able to get in contact with the police for help and then file a police report. You might also plan a “civil-standby” at the custodial parent’s home (or at the custody exchange place) so the police can oversee the exchange;
  • Get a Hold of the the DA’s Office: A lot of DA’s offices have devoted child abduction units. These are usually entrusted with assisting parents impose custody and visitation orders and preventing kidnapping;
  • Have a Motion Filed: When the custodial parent is continually denying you visitation, you can file a motion petitioning up to date orders from the court. Through the motion, you can petition the court to alter the custody order, impose the custody order, or issue sanctions or other orders to hinder violations down the road;
  • File for Contempt: Contempt is a judicial proceeding brought against a person who violates a court order such as a visitation order. In contempt proceedings, the court may issue injunctions (fines) or require the violator serve time in jail.

Do I Need to Hire a Lawyer If I Have a Problem with Child Visitation?

If you seek to enforce your visitation rights with your children, consulting a child visitation attorney is advisable. A local attorney can help you understand your rights and navigate the intricate legal system.


  1. Rivera, J. (2019, September 19). Denial of visitation rights. LegalMatch Law Library. Retrieved September 21, 2021, from
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