What happens if the custodial parent refuses visitation in Texas?

What happens if the custodial parent refuses visitation in Texas

Visitation agreements between a custodial and a non-custodial parent are usually decided in either divorce or custody proceedings. In Texas, both parents generally have the right to a meaningful relationship with their child(ren). The court will typically encourage the parents to reach an arrangement on their own, either through mediation or negotiation, but if they cannot, the court will decide on the matter.

In such instances, the court will evaluate several factors, including but not limited to the child’s age and needs, the parents’ schedules and availability, and the child’s relationship with each parent. However, some cases may involve a history of abuse or neglect and additional factors relevant to the child’s well-being, which would influence the court’s conclusions.

In a typical circumstance, if the parents reach an agreement, they can submit it to the court for approval. The court will review it to ensure that it is in the child’s best interests and, if it is, will incorporate it into the final custody order, including the agreed-upon visitation terms. If the parents cannot agree, the court will determine based on the factors described above and order a visitation schedule in the final custody order. In any case, both parties are expected to follow and respect the order once it’s finalized.

Failure to Follow Visitation Agreements

Parents who are experiencing difficulty with visitation because the custodial parent refuses to let them see their children may wonder what options are available to enforce the custody order.

Under Texas law, it is typically expected that both parents will follow the terms of a custody order and allow the other parent to exercise the visitation rights. If the custodial parent refuses visitation without a valid reason, it may be considered a violation of the court’s order. In this situation, the non-custodial parent has several options for enforcing their visitation rights. First, an attempt to resolve the matter through mediation or other alternative dispute resolution methods can be made. Mediation can help avoid further legal action and may be quicker and less costly for both parties involved.

If the parties cannot resolve the issue through mediation, the non-custodial parent may file a motion for enforcement with the court. Through such legal action, the non-custodial parent alleges that the custodial parent is not complying with the terms of the court order.

If the court finds that the custodial parent has indeed refused visitation without a valid reason, they may impose penalties on the custodial parent. These penalties could include ordering make-up visitation time, fines, jail time, and the payment of the non-custodial parent’s attorney’s fees.

You can seek to file a motion to enforce visitation per Chapter 157 of the Texas Family Code. Still, success often pends on the clarity of the language within the standing visitation order, meaning it must be specific regarding stating the terms of visitation (e.g., times, place, frequency). Unfortunately, often visitation agreements are expressed rather vaguely.

In addition to Texas state law, federal law may also be relevant in cases where the custodial parent refuses visitation. For example, the federal Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act (UCCJEA) is a law that sets forth procedures for enforcing custody orders across state lines. If the custodial parent has moved to another state with the child, the UCCJEA may be employed to seek enforcement of the custody order.

Proving You Are Being Denied Visitation?

When parents cannot come to an agreement regarding visitation or even when the court has already ordered the visitation schedule, but issues persist that prevent you from visiting your child, you may have to collect evidence to prove your claim. Texts or emails of the other parent refusing to meet you on days you are entitled to visitation are insufficient.

You may ultimately be required to testify under oath that you were denied visitation and prove you were at the appropriate location on the correct day at the precise pickup time. Suppose the other parent stated they refuse to meet you and bring the child or children to the exchange location. You must still travel to the site and wait a reasonable amount of time to meet them.

Gathering Supporting Evidence: a gas station or convenience store receipt near the location you would meet, or a witness statement confirming you showed up to pick up your child, are examples of such evidence.

In addition, you could file a police report confirming you were present on the appropriate day and time at the agreed-upon location.

It is also a wise idea to keep a journal of these denials of visitation. A skilled lawyer can help you organize and present your evidence in family court.

Deciding the Best Course of Action

If you are a parent in this situation, you may wonder how an attorney can help you. A proficient Texas family law lawyer can assist with clarifying custody and visitation orders, navigating the legal process, and representing your interests in court, if needed. They can help you to understand your options and advise you on the best course of action. An attorney can also help you negotiate with the other party and try to resolve the issue without taking legal action.

Anyone seeking to have visitation enforced must understand the legal process for seeking a contempt order and the potential consequences for the custodial parent. It is also paramount to consider the child’s best interests, as the court will always prioritize the child’s well-being in any custody matter. An experienced Texas family law attorney can help you decide the appropriate steps to take and answer any questions you may have.