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Will refusing visitation affect your ex's chance at custody?

Going through a divorce is an emotional, complicated process. For those who can't see their children, it can be even more difficult. After all, your children are probably some of the people you love the most in the whole world.

If you weren't expecting a divorce, suddenly living separated from them can be difficult enough. When your spouse files, he or she can request temporary custody until the courts finalize your divorce. You'll receive visitation and a court order for child support. If you're getting denied regular visitation or shared custody while waiting for your divorce, it can be that much worse.

The children come first

Psychological studies make it clear that, so long as abuse isn't a factor, maintaining relationships with both parents is typically in the best interests of a child. Courts definitely consider that when determining custody.

Unless there is concrete evidence of behavior that places the children at risk, the courts will very likely assign shared custody or at least liberal amounts of parenting time to the non-custodial parent. When one parent intentionally violates the best interest of the child as a means to punish the other parent, the courts will take notice of this behavior.

Parenting time and visitation are set via court order

To ensure compliance by all parties, the family courts of Texas issue both child support and visitation or parenting time via court order. Failing to comply with these orders is contempt of court. Just like you could face legal consequences for failing to pay child support, your former spouse could face legal consequences if he or she refuses to comply with parenting time or visitation orders.

Generally, enforcement during the divorce process is complex. The courts are unlikely to hold anyone in contempt until the divorce is finalized.

Document everything

Documenting each and every instance where your right to visitation or shared custody got intentionally violated can help your case for custody. Texas courts, in general, will seek to create some kind of shared custody.

If your former spouse has shown, through a pattern of behavior, an unwillingness to share custody or put the children's needs first, the courts could decide to award you sole custody and relegate your former spouse to visitation on alternating weekends. Remaining calm and doing your best to put your children first is the best way to improve your chances of receiving custody.

It's also possible for joint custody to work with some court interventions. The courts may order supervised visitation, which helps ensure you receive your parenting time. You may also get ordered to attend parenting classes, which could help you and your former spouse figure out a better way to handle your disagreements in the future.

If your ex has custody after your divorce and still isn't complying with your visitation rights, your county Domestic Relations Office may be able to initiate enforcement actions.

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Board Certified | Texas Board of Legal Specialization | Family Law

John Powell, III is Board Certified in Family Law ~ Texas Board of Legal Specialization

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