When a divorce or separation goes to court, judges always pay special attention to parenting arrangements. Two fundamental principles drive their decisions on childcare: first, all judgments are made in the best interests of the child, and second, the child should have a strong, secure, and ongoing relationship with both parents, unless there are compelling reasons for that not to happen.
In many cases, parents share custody, for example, where the child lives with Mom on school days and with Dad at the weekend. In cases where one parent has sole custody, the other is usually granted specific parenting time - in other words, visitation rights.
In Arizona, denial of visitation rights by a custodial parent is a serious matter. Why? Because it’s breaking the terms of a court order. However, there are some circumstances where denied access is allowable, so read on to learn more about the acceptable reasons and the possible sanctions if you unlawfully block access.
Can a custodial parent deny visitation in Arizona? The short answer is yes. But if you do so, you need to tread extremely carefully because there may be all sorts of legal ramifications and consequences. If you have genuine concerns around safety and security, you can legitimately prevent the other parent’s access to your child. Just remember that, subsequently, you may need to provide evidence to back up your concerns.
Sadly, parents mixed up in visitation disputes often forget about the essential part of the equation: the poor child stuck in the middle. It’s no fun for a young person to go through the trauma of their parents’ break-up - but it’s even worse when they have to endure even more arguments and disputes post-separation.
So for everyone’s sake - you, your ex, and most significantly, your child - it’s best if you can settle any issues without the need to return to court.
It’s helpful to understand the differences between custodial and non-custodial parenting. There are two forms of custody. Physical custody is about where the child resides, while legal custody concerns how parents make important decisions regarding the child’s upbringing. Both these forms can be sole or joint - single or shared.
In cases of sole physical custody, judges will usually award visitation rights to the non-custodial parent. However, access may be denied in some circumstances, such as cases involving severe matters like domestic violence or drug addiction.
There are many reasons why a parent might choose to deny visitation, but you need to be extremely wary about taking the law into your own hands. You might be mad that your ex has missed a child support payment, for instance, but legally speaking, that doesn’t entitle you to block access.
Justifiable reasons to deny visitation include when the other parent is under the influence or when the risk of abuse or abduction arises.
A parent under the influence of drugs and alcohol isn’t just a danger to themselves: they’re a clear risk to the child too. If your ex is abusing drugs and alcohol, you’re allowed to block access. It’s crucial to keep a record of what happened, and if you can, back that up with evidence and witnesses.
No child should have to experience abuse, be it sexual, physical, or emotional. If you believe there’s a danger that your child will endure such abuse, you can reasonably deny visitation. This also applies if your ex has a new partner who poses a risk to the child.
Thankfully, abduction cases are extremely rare, but if there’s a real risk of your child being kidnapped, you can block access. If you’re concerned about the possibility of abduction, you should consult with a legal professional or your local DA and take a range of sensible, preventative measures.
Federal law applies across all 50 states, whereas state law is only applicable to people who live and work in that jurisdiction. In general, federal law takes precedence over state law.
Federal law on custody and visitation rights informs and guides state law, meaning the rules are generally the same. However, each state makes and interprets its laws in its own way, so in practice, regulations may differ from state to state. That’s why it’s so critical to check out how the legislation works where you live.
Several options are available to the courts in cases where the custodial parent is in the wrong and flagrantly denies visitation. Often, judges will recommend mediation first, but the offending parent may be on the receiving end of various sanctions and punishments if that doesn’t work. Examples include additional make-up time for lost parenting or family counseling classes paid for by the violating parent.
Parents who break a visitation order are in contempt of court. In more serious cases, they may find themselves facing fines or having to pay their former partner’s legal fees and court charges. The situation could also ultimately lead to a change in the custodial arrangements.
There are substantial emotional, financial, and legal implications if your case has to go back to court over childcare arrangements. With the support, help, and knowledge of a specialist family lawyer, you may be able to resolve the situation without the need for a court appearance.
Still, if your case does land in court, a specialist family attorney will use all their experience, legal knowledge, and practical know-how to help you get the best possible outcome.
Whether you’re the parent blocking access or the one denied visitation, your actions must be legal and within the terms of your court order. If you have any questions on the matter, contact us at Marble for a free case assessment. That way, you stay safe, legal, and secure!