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PARENTING TIME: IT'S THE RIGHT THING TO DO

Author : Lucille Uttermohlen

Submitted : 2009-03-15 06:43:25    Word Count : 813    Popularity:   161

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Good or bad, your parents have a lot of influence on your life. Your fears and pleasures, actions and reactions are reflections of the people who brought you up. It is rarely good for a child to be deprived of contact with one of his parents, even if Mom and Dad don't like each other. Thus, all states have laws to protect a non-custodial parent's "parenting time" or visitation rights.

The general provision for parenting time includes every other weekend and alternate holidays. Week nights can also be included. If the parents live a long way from each other, less frequent but longer visits may be ordered. Breaks from school can also furnish time with the non-custodial parent. The child's age can also be a factor in deciding how frequently and for what length visitation should occur.

Parenting time is very important. Because of this, it is very hard to prove that the non-custodian should not have any contact with the children. If he / she can't be trusted, his / her visitation may be supervised by a third party to make sure no harm comes to the child. The supervisor can be a trusted relative, friend, or even a professional whose participation is ordered by the court. If the parenting time doesn't occur because the non-custodial parent doesn't want it, little can be done. Even though parenting time and support are viewed as the child's rights, not the parent's, no one can force another person to visit if he / she doesn't want to.

If the lack of visits is because of the custodial parent's actions, contempt proceedings can be brought against him / her to force cooperation. Failure to cooperate in visatation can even be used as a reason to change custody.

The custodial parents influence on a child is great. He or she can convince the child that the other parent is dangerous, cruel, or somehow defective. Because of this courts are very strict with parents whose reason for not accommodating visitation are "he or she does not want to visit". It is not the child's choice. It is considered to be his / her need, rather like being forced to eat broccoli instead of cake for lunch. An uncooperative parent can find him or herself on the business end of an injunction in some states. If that happens, the uncooperative parent may have to pay the other parent's attorney's fees, and he / she can end up in jail for failing to make the child available for visits with the other parent.

It is also important for the custodial parent to understand that child-support and parenting time are two separate issues. If the non-custodian is behind in his or her child support, he or she can be held in contempt by the court. However, this does not give the custodian the right to disobey the court's parenting time order. It does not matter how far behind the non-custodian is in his child support.He or she still has the right to visit with the child. The supporting parent may be in contempt for his failure to pay, but the custodial parent cannot use the children to compel him / her to do it.

If you have reason to believe that your child is being abused by the other parent, you have an obligation to do whatever you can to protect him or her. The welfare department, the police and the prosecutor's office will help. A judge can enter orders to protect your
child from the excesses of a parent who would harm him.

Still, it is important to make an informed decision after considering all the circumstances before acting. Talk to the other parent to get a sense of whether the child's observations are true, or whether he or she is just angry over a legitimate disciplinary matter. Bear in mind that your child doesn't necessarily understand the significance of what he / she is saying, and his seemingly grim observations about his time with the other parent may be because of his limited ability to understand and judge the situation, not because of the way the event actually happened.

Remember it is the child who is deprived of a parent's love and support who suffers. Only in extreme circumstances is he better off without the other parents participation in his or her life. In addition, basing an important decision like whether to incur the expense and aggravation of going to court should never be left to a child's discretion. If a child knows that his parents will compete for his loyalty, he holds all of the cards, but will certainly lose the game.

Author's Resource Box

Lucille P. Uttermohlen is a family law attorney with 27 years experience. Her specialties include divorce, paternity, adoption, guardianship, probate and criminal law. To learn more about the divorce process, visit Lucille at Couple-Or-Not.com

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