Can a parent with full custody refuse to allow visitation due to unsanitary living conditions?
I will answer this question in the context of some applicable law for the jurisdiction where I practice divorce and family law (Utah).
There are many ways to approach this question, but briefly one thing you need to be aware of are the custodial interference laws.
Under the custodial interference laws (76-5-303. Custodial interference), A parent can refuse to comply with a child custody and/or parent time order under certain circumstances:
(a) the action is consented to by the person whose custody or visitation of the child was interfered with; or
(i) the action is based on a reasonable belief that the action is necessary to protect a child from abuse, including sexual abuse; and
(ii) before engaging in the action, the person reports the person’s intention to engage in the action, and the basis for the belief described in Subsection (6)(b)(i), to the Division of Child and Family Services or law enforcement.
See also 76-5-305. Defenses:
(a) the actor was acting under a reasonable belief that:
(i) the conduct was necessary to protect any person from imminent bodily injury or death; or
(ii) the detention or restraint was authorized by law; or
(b) the alleged victim is younger than 18 years of age or is mentally incompetent, and the actor was acting under a reasonable belief that the custodian, guardian, legal guardian, custodial parent, or person acting in loco parentis to the victim would, if present, have consented to the actor’s conduct.
There is no hard and fast rule you could apply in this situation, of course, but I think it’s reasonable to say that if the living conditions that the other parent’s house were so unsanitary as to pose a serious risk of harm to the child’s life or health, refusing to comply with parent time on that basis might not result in criminal guilt.
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