Denying a parent parenting time is a drastic thing to do. A court will not do this unless it is shown that parenting time with the non-custodial parent would be detrimental to the child. This requires some rather extraordinary circumstances.
Courts will not deny a parent access to their child based upon conflict between the parents. The conflict between the parents should never be allowed to trickle down to the child’s relationship with the non-custodial parent. Non-payment of child support also is not a basis to deny access to a non-custodial parent.
The incarceration of a parent will not preclude parenting time automatically. To deny a parent parenting time with their child based upon their incarceration a court must find that visiting a parent in jail or prison is not in the best interest of a child or that egregious circumstances exist.
Very often the issue with parenting time with an incarcerated parent is finding someone to take the child for the parent. Courts generally are not going to order the custodial parent to bring their child to a prison or correctional facility to see the non-custodial parent. Also, with parents in state prison many times the issue is that the prison is many hours away from the child’s home. For example, a significant portion of New York’s prisons are far upstate or in the western part of the state, while the majority of the population is clustered in New York City and Long Island in the southeast corner of the state. The logistics and costs of a trip of hundreds of miles often make visits by children impractical.
The denial of parenting time is a last option. Where there are concerns about a child’s safety while they are with the non-custodial parent the court’s first option is to order supervised visitation. This usually is sufficient to allow the parenting time to continue while assuring the safety of the child. Supervised visitation will be discussed in detail a later post.
Generally, before a court will deny a parent all access to their child there must be some proven allegations of neglect or abuse of the child, or a parent’s mental illness, which places the child in some genuine jeopardy. As a practical matter, the one significant exception to this general rule is that a mere allegation of sexual abuse usually will be sufficient basis to suspend a parent’s contact pending the determination of the allegation. Sexual abuse are taken very seriously.
Where a parent has supervised visitation and they continue to misbehave, a court may suspend their visitation. A typical situation is a parent who continues to speak inappropriately to the child, either about the other parent or about legal issues that should not be shared with the child.
Overall, a complete denial of parenting time is uncommon. In a typical custody case it is not even discussed.