How Stopping Visitation Rights Can Affect You

Legitimate reasons to refuse visitation and the possible repercussions

Portrait of a small boy
Thanasis Zovoilis / Getty Images

Visitation rights are frequently awarded to non-custodial parents. However, some parents may wish to refuse visitation for a variety of reasons. Before you take this step, though, make sure that your reasons are, in fact, legitimate in the event that you need to defend your decision in court. The following examples demonstrate situations that may warrant a parent's decision to refuse visitation to another parent:

Alcohol/Substance Abuse

If a child has witnessed an intoxicated parent or been with a parent who abused drugs, it's possible that the other parent would want to refuse visitation in order to protect the child. In this case, the parent looking to enforce the original child custody agreement would need to initiate a new child custody case in court. However, a parent who is refused visitation for alcohol or substance abuse should be aware that a court may require the parent to attend substance/alcohol rehabilitation or counseling. The ability to resume visitation may be conditional upon successful completion of the family counseling program.

Domestic Violence

A parent may refuse visitation to a parent who has been accused of domestic violence. A court will look at several factors when determining whether domestic violence is an appropriate reason to refuse visitation:

  • Whether the child or a sibling was the target of the violence
  • Whether the child witnessed domestic violence
  • Whether the parent has received counseling for domestic violence

A parent who refuses visitation to a parent who is accused of domestic violence should be prepared for the court to offer one of the following alternatives:

    Immediate Danger to the Child

    A parent may refuse visitation to another parent if the parent believes the child may be in danger, while in the company of a parent. A dangerous environment may be:

    • A home with several weapons that are not correctly stored
    • A home in a neighborhood with a high crime rate
    • A home where previous crimes have occurred by other members of the household

    A parent who is refused visitation due to dangerous living accommodations may need to move to a safer place, acceptable by the court and the other parent in order to continue visitation.


    Incarceration is a difficult, complicating factor. Although incarcerated parents are entitled to visitation, it's possible that a custodial parent may not want their child to experience visiting a parent in prison. In an incident like this, a parent should seek advice from legal counsel about their rights to refuse visitation to an incarcerated parent. A court will inquire as to whether visiting an incarcerated parent serves the best interests of the child, so a parent who refuses visitation to a parent in prison should be prepared to respond to a question on best interests in court.

    Repercussions for Refusing Visitation

    A parent who prevents another parent from exercising his/her visitation rights should expect some consequences.

    The non-custodial parent will most likely initiate a child custody modification case. In this proceeding, a court will either alter the child custody arrangement, in favor of the non-custodial parent or a court may leave the current custodial agreement intact.

    Additional Tips

    It is in the children's best interests for parents to work together to develop a workable visitation schedule. Ideally, if there were a problem, barring anything that could not be solved, parents should be able to communicate with each other and come together for the sake of the children. Parents may also consider the mediation or arbitration process which can help them work out any problems in a non-adversarial manner.

    For more information about child custody, parents should refer to the child custody guidelines of their state or speak with a qualified attorney.