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Couples who choose to divorce must make choices about more than how to divide their assets. A priority is creating a reasonable custody and visitation plan that will serve the best interests of the children. In the state of New York, the family courts follow laws and regulations designed to protect those interests and provide the children a chance to have ongoing contact with their parents. If you are considering divorce, here are a few things you should know about the visitation laws in New York.

What is Visitation?

As it relates to child custody, visitation is court-ordered and approved time that allows the non-custodial parent to interact with his or her child. The goal is to ensure that the child continues to have a familial relationship with the non-custodial parent even though the parents are no longer married. While parents develop visitation plans with the aid of legal counsel, the family court must approve the arrangement before the visitation is legally binding.

As a judge will stress, visitation addresses the minimum amount of time the non-custodial parent is allowed access to his or her child. The parents, at their discretion, may agree to more interaction if they believe doing so is in the best interests of the child.

What Laws Form the Basis for Structuring Visitation?

Federal as well as state actions form the basis for structuring visitation plans in New York. The Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act is an example of a federal statute that is supported by the state of New York. This Act is designed to make identification of which state will hold jurisdiction over child custody and visitation matters. This is especially important if the parents choose to live in different states.

On a state level, DOM § 240 provides the basis for structuring a custody plan, including the visitation. The provisions within this code include provisions for determining which parent is in the best position to serve as the custodial parent, the level of financial support the non-custodial parent will offer, and defining the terms and conditions for visitation rights and privileges.

Are Parents the Only Ones Who Can Seek Visitation Rights?

One misconception about custody and visitation rights is that the parents are the only ones who can seek visitation. In New York, it is possible for grandparents to seek custody or at least secure visitation rights. This may occur when the parents seek to prevent grandparents from seeing the children without any grounds recognized by the court. A family lawyer can work with the grandparents to determine if they have a claim the court is likely to recognized and make the proper petition.

Can a Parent Be Denied Visitation or Only Receive Supervised Visitation Rights?

At all times, the family court is interested in doing what is best for the child. That can mean the denial of visitation privileges to a parent or other party seeking visitation rights. Typically, the court will take this action when there is evidence that the child would be harmed in some way by the interaction.

For example, if there is evidence that a non-custodial parent physically or emotionally abused the child, the family court can deny visitation. If the abuse is discovered after a visitation plan is already in place, the court will review a petition to amend the custody and visitation terms.

The court may also lift a ban on visitation under specific circumstances. This means that a non-custodial parent who was denied visitation due to addiction receives proper treatment and remains sober for a reasonable amount of time, the court may grant what is known as supervised visitation rights. This means the parent and child may spend time together under the supervision of a responsible party appointed by the court. If the non-custodial parent continues to remain sober and demonstrates the ability to responsibly care for the child, the supervised visitation may be discontinued and a traditional visitation arrangement implemented.

How a Family Lawyer Can Help

Navigating through the statutes, laws, and court requirements related to visitation rights can be confusing. Seeking help from a family lawyer makes it easier to identify laws and statutes that apply directly to the client’s situation. Even in a situation where the parents are working amicably to arrive at a reasonable visitation schedule, the presence of legal counsel ensures the plan presented to the court is reasonable, in the best interests of the child, and complies with current laws.

If you need help with a custody arrangement, now is the time to seek help from a family lawyer. Doing so will improve the odds for an outcome that is fair, balanced, and right for the child as well as the parents.

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