What Can I Do If It Is Not Safe for My Child to Visit the Other Parent?

A very scary scenario for a primary residential parent is when there is a situation with the other parent that may somehow endanger the children.  As we have previously discussed, generally, the primary residential parent has to do everything he/she can to make the child go to court ordered visitations.  If you fail to do that, you could be subject to contempt sanctions from the court.  Nothing in this article should be construed as encouraging anyone to disregard a valid court order.

Nevertheless, there are times when a parent believes there is good cause not to allow the child to visit wit the other parent.  Kentucky statute says that, "[g]ood cause not to comply with a provision of a decree or temporary order or injunction with respect to visitation shall include mutual consent of the parties, reasonable belief by either party that there exists the possibility of endangerment to the physical, mental, moral, or emotional health of the child, or endangerment to the physical safety of either party, or extraordinary circumstances as determined by the court."  Usually these circumstances involve situations of severe substance abuse, criminal activity or a reckless disregard for the child's health or well-being.

Keep in mind that this statute also says that a person who fails to comply with a valid order without good cause shall be found in contempt and appropriately sanctioned.  The court is also authorized to order the offending party to pay the other parent's attorney fees and costs associated with the denial of visitation.

If you have determined that you believe you have sufficient good cause to deny visitation, you should contact your attorney.  Many times parents believe there is good cause to deny visitation when it is actually more of a personality conflict between the parents instead of a danger to the child.  Also keep in mind that judges hear many cases with many horrible facts and often become very jaded.  What you believe to be a serious endangerment may not concern a judge at all.  Your attorney should be able to give you some guidance on your particular judge's "rules of thumb."

If your attorney agrees with you that there is a sufficient basis to deny the visitation, your next step is usually to file a notice with the court of an intent to deny the visitation.  This notice does not actually give you any authority, but it is primarily to provide some protection when the other parent files a contempt allegation against you.  You should not just rely on this notice and act unilaterally.  The best thing is to be proactive and follow that up with a motion asking the court to address the issue either by suspending the visitation or imposing safeguards to adequately protect the child during the visitation.  Understand, the court will do everything it can to encourage and allow both parents to spend time with the child.  Each case is different and you should discuss yours with your attorney before doing anything that might subject you to sanctions.

Photo courtesy of Alexandru Panoiu

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