When Court-Ordered Visitation Rights Are Denied

7 Action Steps for Parents Denied Visitation Rights

Is your ex constantly delaying visitation, withholding your children, or outright denying your court-ordered visitation rights? Before we go into what to do next, and ways to restore visitation rights, there's one thing you should avoid—and that's withholding child support. The courts do not look favorably on parents who withhold financial support from their children, regardless of whether your court-ordered visitation rights are being denied or your ex is clearly in contempt of a court order.

Now that we've covered the main what-not-to-do item, let's explore 7 things you can do when you're denied visitation by your ex. The following recommendations are in order of escalation, with item number one being the least severe course of action.

Negotiate with your ex (if possible).

Man and woman discussing court-ordered visitation.
Photo © Gary Burchell/Getty Images

Step one is negotiating with your ex. Find out whether there's an outstanding issue or concern that needs to be addressed. For example, if you need to upgrade your kids' car seats, it may be far more simple to do that than to continue to argue about it or be denied visitation rights.

Similarly, if your ex has a safety concern about your home or circumstances surrounding your children's time with you, do what you can to address any legitimate concerns and/or clear up any fear-based misunderstandings.

Note: If your ex has a history of violence or drug abuse, or if you do not have a good working relationship, you may need to skip negotiations and go directly to step two.

Document each denial.

Write down the details in a spiral-bound, dated calendar or date book, or send the notes to yourself in an email. Record when the visitation arrangements were made, what the agreement was, and how you first learned that your court-ordered visitation rights were being denied. Try to stick with facts, as they are much more relevant to court proceedings than notes about how the experience felt to you at the time.

Don't Miss: Documentation in Child Custody Cases

File a police report.

A more formal way of documenting the situation is filing a police report. Tip: Don't call 9-1-1 for this. Look up the police station's direct number or go there in person to file a report.

Contact the district attorney's office.

Another step that has been helpful for many parents when they've been denied court-ordered visitation rights is contacting your local district attorney's office. Let them know what's going on and see what they can do, if anything, to expedite the process and ensure that your parental rights are upheld.

File a motion asking the court to enforce the custody and visitation order.

The next step is to formally ask the court to enforce the existing child custody and visitation order. This is where all of your documentation may come into play. Consider asking the court to award make up visitation, as well. You can either contact your lawyer to request a motion or file pro se (on your own). You may find that the clerk of your local family court is an excellent resource, as well.

Request a modification of the child custody and visitation order.

A similar step is filing for a child custody modification. You may formally ask for more visitation time or actually file for joint custody or full custody. Be aware, though, that the court can come back with a new order that grants you even less visitation time than you have now. However, the situation can also go the other way, as many courts deal harshly with parents who deny visitation between their child and the other parent.

File a motion of contempt.

Finally, the last step when you are denied visitation is to file a motion of contempt. This is when you formally ask the court to enforce sanctions against your ex for denying your court-ordered visitation rights. In some cases, the parent who denies visitation to the other parent will actually be fined a significant sum of money or even be required to serve jail time.