Can You Lose Custody by Denying Visitation?

By Robin Elizabeth Margolis

Parents fighting

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You can lose custody of your child by denying the other parent visitation. Denial of visitation can also result in a court canceling child support payments by the wronged parent. No matter what your reasons are for not wanting your children to have contact with their other parent, if you want your ex-spouse or ex-partner prevented from visiting your children, you need to return to court and get the original custody order changed to avoid legal repercussions.

Custody History

The English colonies in America initially followed the British view that a child's father should receive custody of his child after a divorce, even if the divorce resulted from the father's abusive behavior. Fathers could deny mothers any visitation, and mothers usually had no legal recourse.

Both English and American court decisions and laws shifted during the 19th century in favor of giving custody to children's mothers, believing that this was in the "best interests" of the children, a standard that originated in a 1774 English lawsuit called "Blisset's Case." At the present time, the "best interests" standard can be invoked by either a mother or a father seeking custody of a child, with visitation rights granted to the non-custodial parent.

Denying Visitation

Denial of visitation usually occurs when one parent has physical custody of the children after a divorce and the other parent has visitation rights. Some custodial parents experience strong negative emotions about their ex-spouses and are reluctant to see their children develop separate relationships with their non-custodial parents. Other custodial parents believe that the non-custodial parents are abusing the children or are dangerous to them in other ways.

Denial of visitation appears in many different forms, including setting up activity schedules for children that prevent them from seeing the non-custodial parent, refusing to bring them to their non-custodial parent at agreed-upon meeting places and times, and even kidnapping the children, which is also known as family abduction.

Ending Visitation

If you believe that ending visitation by your ex-spouse is in the best interest of your child, you need to review your own state's child custody laws to see if you have legally acceptable reasons to request modification of your original child custody order. Courts receiving a request to terminate the non-custodial parent's visitation rights generally require that you prove that your ex-spouse has exhibited behaviors that have harmed or might harm your child during a visit, such as using illegal drugs, drinking excessively or being abusive. Other reasons used to end visitation rights include a non-custodial parent's untreated mental illness or imprisonment. The Family Law Organization maintains links to the custody provisions of each state's family law code.

Modifying Custody Order

Once you have determined that you have strong legal grounds for seeking to end your ex-spouse's visitation rights, you need to contact the court that issued your original child custody order, and file a motion for modification of that order. Keep in mind that courts rarely terminate visitation rights. A court may refuse your request or suggest that visitation be restructured with stricter conditions, such as allowing your ex-spouse to see your child only through a supervised visitation program. You may wish to hire an attorney who specializes in family law to help you navigate the legal proceedings necessary to get your custody order changed.