Child Custody & Visitation
Parents have a right to visitation with their children. Grandparents and other relatives do not have a right to visit their grandchildren. A grandparent must prove that the child will be harmed without visitation from them before a court will order grandparent visitation. Parents can agree to allow grandparent visitation. They should keep in mind that the child may benefit from a relationship with his grandparents even if the parents do not get along. It can strengthen the child’s connection to his heritage and extended family.
Both the mother and the father have equal rights to visitation time with their child where the parents are separated or divorced. Traditionally, the mother was designated the parent of primary residence. This means that the child lives with the mother more than half of the time. Traditionally, the father was called the parent of alternate residence. Nowadays, shared parenting is done where each parent has fifty percent of the time with the child. It gives the child the benefit of having its mother and father share in the parenting. This can work well when the parents live near each other and the child/children’s school is accessible from both homes.
Visitation and custody are intertwined. Custody can be agreed upon by the parties or can be court ordered if necessary. It is better to agree upon custody unless there is a real risk of harm to the child, such as drug addiction, alcoholism, mental illness, and other conditions in which the child will be unsafe. A custody battle will invoke a psychologist’s expert testimony in most cases.
Children should never be used as pawns of the parents. Unfortunately, there are cases of child abduction. Tanya Helfand has handled these cases, from simple passport possession issues to interstate custody litigation and international child custody issues and enforcement, as well as related issues varying from passport suspension to collection of child support arrears.