If you and your child’s parent are not together and one of you has sole custody, you likely have questions about visitation rights. In most cases, when one parent is awarded sole custody, the other is given the right to spend time with the child through a child visitation plan. This is referred to as parenting time. In New Jersey the right of a parent to spend time with his/her child is fiercely advocated by the courts and legislature. However, the bottom line is always served by the principal of the best interests of the child.
Failure to Comply With the Child Visitation Plan
Refusal to comply with a court ordered visitation plan is a crime, punishable by a fine of up to $10,000, and possible jail time of up to 18 months. This noncompliance is usually in the form of depriving the non-custodial parent of scheduled parenting time. A parent may not withhold visitation because of the other parent’s failure to pay child support. The non-custodial parent may file a criminal complaint for visitation interference under N.J.S.A. 2C:13-4(a).
Rights of the Parent vs. Rights of the Child
The court treads carefully in situations where the child doesn’t want visitation with the noncustodial parent, and various factors are considered. The child’s age and maturity are paramount. By the age of 16, the child’s wishes are given considerable weight. However, the court still reviews other mitigating factors, such as whether the custodial parent has influenced the child’s decision by alienating him/her from the other parent.
If either parent experiences a significant change in circumstances, he/she may request a modification to the court-ordered visitation plan. These changes include a major move, a new job, a new situation that indicate safety concerns, or the failure of the other parent to comply with the established parenting plan.
Child visitation is a contentious issue. Emotions runs high and it’s often difficult for parents to work together to come to an agreement for their children. The counsel of an experienced family law attorney is very helpful in this situation. At Castronovo & McKinney, our knowledgeable attorneys are prepared to assist you with this difficult matter.