A child visitation lawyer can help you maintain strong parent-child relationships during difficult times. Most parents value and need ongoing contact with their children. And, this is particularly true if your children do not live with you. Below, learn about Maryland’s child visitation laws and how to assert your rights.
How Does Visitation Work?
When a couple is together, you share custody of your children. When a relationship ends, either by divorce or a breakup, parents must sort out a child custody arrangement. When one parent gets primary or sole custody of a child, the non-custodial parent typically receives visitation rights. In other words, both parents have the right to contact and spend time with their child.
During a breakup, even devoted parents can make unwise and emotional decisions. Under certain circumstances, a court might order supervised visitation such as if you are:
- Undergoing substance abuse rehabilitation,
- Receiving mental health treatment, or
Supervised visitation typically involves meeting with your child at a neutral location. And, if you are uncomfortable seeing your ex, you might have monitored or staggered hand-offs of your child.
How Do I Assert my Visitation Rights?
A court-ordered visitation schedule can help minimize disputes about parent-child contact and communications. While some parents can agree to the terms of a visitation schedule on their own, many couples need help from a child visitation lawyer. Your lawyer might:
- Help you negotiate a fair visitation schedule and present it to the Baltimore Circuit Court for approval,
- Guide you through an alternative dispute resolution process, such as mediation,
- File a complaint for visitation on your behalf, and
- Request a hearing and litigate your claim.
Judges must consider your child’s best interests when awarding visitation. The frequency and extent of your visitation rights might depend on:
- The age and number of children involved,
- Your child’s wishes (if age-appropriate),
- The amount of travel required to see your child,
- The parents’ work schedules,
- Your child’s school and other schedules,
- Your child’s need for stability,
- Each parent’s willingness to cooperate and maintain a civil relationship,
- Whether there is a history of domestic violence or child abuse,
- Your child’s health, and
- Your child’s physical and emotional needs.
Once you have a court-ordered visitation schedule, you must follow it– even if the non-custodial parent has unpaid child support. If your ex violates your visitation order, you should demand his or her compliance. If your requests are ignored, contact a child visitation lawyer immediately. A parent who violates a visitation order might face:
- Criminal charges, including:
- Contempt of court,
- Kidnapping, and
- Child abuse, and
- Civil penalties, including the termination or reduction of visitation or custody rights.
However, Baltimore courts always maintain jurisdiction over child custody and visitation matters. If your circumstances significantly change, you can ask the court to modify the visitation order.
Can a Grandparent or Other Family Member Get Visitation Rights?
Grandparents, stepparents, and other family members do not typically have custody rights unless the child’s biological parents are unfit. However, they might have limited visitation rights. These claims are complicated and require extensive legal analysis. If you are a grandparent or other family member, you should consult with a child visitation lawyer before filing a complaint for visitation.
Speak with a Child Visitation Lawyer
Before you give up your custody or visitation rights, you should always consult with a Baltimore child visitation lawyer. Since 1993, James E. Crawford & Associates has represented both mothers and fathers in visitation claims. If you have questions about a visitation order, contact us for a consultation.