Can a parent deny the other parent of visitation with the child?
If a court order has been issued or custody agreement signed by both parties sets for the visitation, then the visitation schedule set forth in the order or agreement must be abided by. Denying or limiting visitation that is set forth in a court order or custody agreement will be taken very seriously by a court. Denying visitation can have serious legal consequences, such as losing custody or having supervised visitation.
If there is a court order on visitation, then denying or limiting visitation can lead to contempt of court against the denying parent. If you violate a court order with the intention to violate and cannot state good reasons for denying visitation, the court can find you in contempt of court, you may lose legal custody, lose parenting time, pay a fine, pay the other party’s attorney’s fees, and/or be sentence to jail, among other things.
The parent who has had his/her custody denied, can file a motion to modify of custody and seek legal and physical custody. In determining custody or modification of custody, two of the factors in the Virginia statute that the court shall consider are:
The propensity of each parent to actively support the child’s contact and relationship with the other parent, including whether a parent has unreasonably denied the other parent access to or visitation with the child; and
The relative willingness and demonstrated ability of each parent to maintain a close and continuing relationship with the child, and the ability of each parent to cooperate in and resolve disputes regarding matters affecting the child; Virginia Code Section 20-124.3 (6) and (7).
Withholding the child in violation of a court order is illegal and may constitute a criminal offense:
18.2-49.1. Violation of court order regarding custody and visitation; penalty.
A. Any person who knowingly, wrongfully and intentionally withholds a child from either of a child’s parents or other legal guardian in a clear and significant violation of a court order respecting the custody or visitation of such child, provided such child is withheld outside of the Commonwealth, is guilty of a Class 6 felony.
B. Any person who knowingly, wrongfully and intentionally engages in conduct that constitutes a clear and significant violation of a court order respecting the custody or visitation of a child is guilty of a Class 3 misdemeanor upon conviction of a first offense. Any person who commits a second violation of this section within 12 months of a first conviction is guilty of a Class 2 misdemeanor, and any person who commits a third violation occurring within 24 months of the first conviction is guilty of a Class 1 misdemeanor.
You should not deny visitation unless you have an extremely compelling reason. Reasons such as the child does not want to see the other parent, the child is sick, the child is engaged in extracurricular activities, the child has a school project, the child wants to be with his friends are not good reasons.
What are good reasons to deny visitation? If allowing visitation would put the child in danger, that is a good reason. For example, if the parent comes to pick up the child for visitation, and is under the influence of alcohol or illegal substances, then you should not allow the parent to take the child. The best thing to do is to contact the police and have the police determine if the parent is impaired and visitation would pose a danger to the child. You better be correct about the other parent’s impaired condition; if it turns out that the other parent was not impaired, you could be in serious trouble with the court.