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Visitation Rights FAQ

Q: Who can get court-ordered visitation rights after a divorce?

A: In most cases, only the child's legal parents have a right to court-ordered visitation. In some states, grandparents, step-parents or other adults who were part of the child's immediate family unit may have limited visitation rights by law.

Q: What if a step-father was a part of the child's home for most of her life and her legal father was not a part of the child's life? Is the step-father entitled to visitation if he and the child's mother get a divorce?

A: In some states, where someone has acted as the de facto parent, that person my be entitled to visitation if the court finds it to be in the child's best interests.

Q: If my ex doesn't pay court-ordered child support, can I refuse to let him see the children?

A: In almost all states, failure to pay child support is not a valid reason to withhold visitation. You should speak to your lawyer or the court about the child support issue, but you must continue to follow the visitation schedule.

Q: Can a former same-sex partner get child visitation rights to a child born during the relationship?

A: Most states have not yet addressed this issue. The court would likely consider whether the person who wants visitation acted as the child's second parent and whether it is in the child's best interests to maintain a relationship with the person petitioning for visitation.

Q: What is "standard visitation" and how does it affect my parent visitation rights?

A: "Standard visitation" in most states means that the non-custodial parent will have the right to see the child every other weekend, certain alternating or agreed holidays and designated family days, and for a portion of the time the child is off of school, such as summer vacation.

Q: Do grandparents have automatic visitation rights?

A: This varies from one state to another. Some states do provide that where the child's parent is deceased, the grandparents on that side have some greater ability to seek visitation. However, the courts have found that the remaining parent generally has the authority to decide who the child sees, even if it means that the child loses contact with his deceased parent's extended family.

Q: How can I get back my visitation rights after I have been released from jail?

A: This varies from state to state. First, check the documents you received at the time of your divorce. If the papers give you a visitation schedule and there have been no modifications since then, you may be able to resume your visitation. However, if circumstances have changed or the papers don't give you visitation rights, you will have to petition the court for an order allowing you to see the children.