Visitation Rights & Child Custody

Visitation Rights & Child Custody

I Haven’t Seen My Child in Years, Can I Get Visitation Rights?

While divorce proceedings may be arduous, the legal agreements that are established in a divorce decree are binding, at least until one partner serves the other with the intention to revisit these arrangements. This means that when the courts determine how legal and physical custody of a child will be handled, the rights afforded to each parent are binding. If parenting time or visiting was established as part of divorce proceedings, you have the right to see your child according to those terms.

However, sometimes life simply gets in the way as a variety of circumstances can lead to you not seeing your child for a long time. Perhaps you moved a long distance from your partner for your career. Maybe health played a factor—an extended illness or medical treatment interrupted your parenting time. Or perhaps your relationship with your child just faded away for any reason, but now you want to revisit visitation. 

Unless any of the custodial or visitation rights established in your divorce proceedings have changed legally, you should be able to re-establish visitation. Here are a few considerations.

First Steps

If your divorce decree awarded you parenting time but you have not exercised it in some time, the first step is to notify your ex-spouse that you would like to exercise the rights you were awarded in court. Your spouse may have some objections if you have not exercised visitation with your child in a long time. However, unless anything has changed in the custodial and visitation agreements established in court at the time of divorce, you are still entitled to visitation.

As the parent with primary custody, your ex-spouse may also have already modified the terms of visitation in court if you were not exercising your rights. For instance, when you stopped visiting, the custodial parent may have set conditions that you need to notify them in advance if you will show up at your ordered time. 

New Conditions

Even though courts generally agree that a child is best served through a relationship with both parents, you may face some new terms if you try to establish visitation rights after an extended absence from your child’s life. As you move to re-establish parenting time, your ex-spouse may impose strict conditions, or even request that you attend counseling with your child. If you want to re-establish your responsibilities as a parent and your relationship with your child, it is important that you follow through on any new conditions.

If you were not awarded visitation during the original divorce proceedings, you may need to petition the court to modify the decree to allow you to visit your child. You may need the help of a family lawyer from a law firm like Law Group of Iowa to pursue these changes.