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Enforcing Your Visitation Rights: 5 Key Steps

Enforcing Your Visitation Rights: 5 Key Steps

“My ex-wife is messing around with the visitation schedule. Either she changes the days when I can see my kids at the last minute or claims this weekend ‘isn’t convenient.’”

You cannot imagine how many times I get a call from someone saying something like this.

As a family law lawyer for men and fathers in New Jersey, I work hard during negotiation to ensure the visitation schedule is beneficial to the father as well as the children and that the mother will agree to observe. Yet, all-too-often the former spouse arbitrarily tries changing when the children can see their dad.

Fortunately, courts take a very dim view of this behavior and there are things I can do to ensure that your visitation rights are enforced.

Upfront Terms

When we negotiated the original custody and visitation plan, we are clear and direct in spelling out the days and weeks when the kids will be with you. We do this to add a degree of certainty to your child’s life at a time when they’re likely to feeling a lot of uncertainty but also because it reduces “wiggle room” where your ex can try to interpret the rules as it suits her.

As a result, we outline the specific days when your children will be with you including the start and end times: If the agreement says 6PM on Fridays through 5PM on Sundays, that is when you’re legally entitled to pick them up and drop them off. We also want to detail how the kids will travel from their mother to you.

We also specify when you’re entitled to have the children during school breaks such as over holidays and during summer vacations, and by including time for Skype or phone calls between visits. At the same time, we include in a visitation agreement details of your involvement in school activities, extra-circular events like a play or sporting event, and how your ex-wife will notify you that such events are on the calendar.

Finally, write out the manner in which you will receive a copy of medical records, report cards and other documents that relate to your child.

Enforcing Your Rights

But, sometimes, despite our best efforts to create an agreement that she signs, the mother of your child will try throwing a monkey wrench into the works. When that happens there are five things we can do on your behalf to make sure she lives up to her end of the agreement. We always start with the least-intrusive and escalate only if necessary.

  1. Urge flexibility. Occasionally, changes to your children’s schedule are unavoidable. We always urge clients to have a degree of flexibility, and to reschedule the time when they first learn of an alteration. Don’t lose your temper; defusing the situation is more likely to lead to a better schedule in the future.
  2. Keep notes. If changes become a fixture of your relationship with your kids and the ex, keep detailed notes about missed time with your children and information on how you tried to reschedule the visitation. It is especially important to make notes about any disparaging comments she made against you, either directly or through your children. If we end up having to go back to court, notes written when the incident happened as well as memos to yourself carry a lot of weight with judges.
  3. Ask the court for help. If nothing seems to be working, we can file a motion asking the court to enforce your visitation rights and the schedule. We would also ask the court to award you the cost of having to undertake legal action that you incurred solely because the mother is interfering with your right to spend time with your kids.
  4. Enlist police help. A court order can be served with the help of law enforcement. However, before taking this draconian step, think about how your children will react if you show up at their front door with a police officer or sheriff’s deputy.
  5. Seek permanent custody. If the problem continues or gets worse, as a last resort we can ask a court to transfer custody to you because your visitation rights have been violated consistently over a prolonged period of time.

Clear and Concise

In every divorce our family lawyers Montclair, NJ handle for fathers, we ensure that the portion of the final agreement dealing with custody and visitation is specific, clear and concise. It’s the best way to avoid misunderstandings or problems down the road.

Alas, sometimes problems still arise. If you are having difficulty with your former wife over the visitation schedule she agreed to, feel free to call me or any child custody attorney Montclair, NJ at the family law firm for men in New Jersey. Reach us at either 973.562.0100 in Nutley or, in Montclair, at 862.245.4620.

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