How does the legal system protect the visitation rights of non-custodial parents?

How? Not very well, generally. 

But before I elaborate, let’s ask and answer this question first: is the legal system designed to protect the visitation (“visitation” is also known as “parent-time”) rights of noncustodial parents? 

The answer to that question is, ostensibly: yes. But as I stated above, regardless of how well the legal system may be designed or may intend to protect the parent-time/visitation rights of noncustodial parents, designs and intentions are meaningless without proper enforcement. 

And just how well are the designed/intended protections of noncustodial parent visitation/parent-time administered and enforced? Terribly, for the most part. 

How so? Some jurisdictions make interfering with the noncustodial parent’s visitation/parent-time a crime. Criminal statutes, however, are of no protection to a noncustodial parent or two that noncustodial parent’s relationship with his/her child if the police won’t issue citations or make arrests for violating the criminal statute and if prosecutors won’t prosecute violations of the criminal statute. 

Virtually all jurisdictions have provisions in their law for punishing violations of visitation/parent-time orders in decrees of divorce and degrees of child custody and parent time. If, however, you are the wronged noncustodial parent (meaning that the custodial parent has flouted the court’s orders and denied/interfered with visitation/parent-time), yet the court does not hold the offending parent accountable by holding him/her in contempt of court and sanctioning him/her for the contemptuous act(s), then contempt of court is not a deterrent. 

Many jurisdictions provide for a parent who has been denied court ordered visitation/parent-time to receive what is known as compensatory or “make-up” time with the children. And that’s sensible. If the other parent denies you a weekend or a holiday with your children, then the court has the power to award you a “make-up” weekend or holiday. Again, however, such concepts and provisions in the law are meaningless when courts don’t enforce them. And many courts won’t. 

Why won’t courts get tough on custodial parents who interfere with and/or deny noncustodial parents there visitation/parent-time? Two main reasons. One, some courts believe that because it’s hard enough on a child to be denied time with one parent, taking time away from the offending parent so that the parent who was denied visitation/parent-time can spend time with the child simply “solves” one problem (denial of time with one parent) by causing another (denial of time with the other parent). Two, some courts just don’t care enough to enforce the laws on the books, and the cost of trying to hold these disobedient judges accountable is usually far too expensive and far too risky (you don’t want to antagonize the judge). 

Utah Family Law, LC | | 801-466-9277  

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