Enforcing Visitation

It’s a well-kept secret that remarkably few divorced parents actually fight about the time they spend with their children. When they do, it’s usually not about the children; it’s more likely that somebody is using the children as a weapon against his or her ex-spouse.

When your ex-spouse is denying you the visitation time you deserve, here’s the procedure I recommend before you call a lawyer. First, write a letter to the other parent reminding him or her about the visitation schedule. Then describe the ways in which the other parent’s behavior seems to you to be inconsistent with what the decree requires. As you write, make sure you confine your description to the behaviors you can observe. Avoid any attempt to describe the motivation for the other parent’s behavior or any behaviors you can’t observe. Set a specific date and time (in compliance with the decree) when you will be ready to visit with your child or children. Send the letter by certified mail.

Then be at the appointed place at the appointed date and time. Wait 20 minutes. If the other parent doesn’t show up with the children, don’t make a scene; just go home and write another letter. Again, confine your comments to the behaviors you can observe. Set another date, time, and place. Repeat the process.

If the other parent stands you up twice for appointments that are in compliance with the divorce decree, then you’re ready to contact a lawyer and file an enforcement petition. In Alabama, it’s called a Petition for Rule Nisi. (“Nisi” is pronounced with a long “i” sound for each syllable, and the accent is on the first syllable.) In the Petition for Rule Nisi, you and your lawyer will ask the judge to enforce visitation, and (typically) for the other parent to be required to reimburse you for your attorney’s fees.

54 comments

  1. Lee Borden says:

    My guess is that if you attempted to get a ruling that Dad has abandoned his child, you would be unsuccessful. That’s because judges are almost always unwilling to bastardize a child. Dad’s irregular calls, limited though they may be, are still an indication that he wants to have a relationship of some kind with his child, and that’s probably enough to preclude abandonment. Keep staying after him to pay child support. That’s probably the best leverage you have.

  2. Katie says:

    I did not file for abadonment when I filed my affidavit, I stated he has rights and responsibilies he has continoulsy failed to provide for the past four years, I then stated the things he has not provided including the emotional support, and that he has continoulsy failed at accepting responsibility for the child. I also attached with my affidavit the current protection from abuse, the petition to amend custody and visitation and contempt of court and after the 30 day period, he did not file a response i file an affidavit for default. I also have him saying he is working under the table so today I was able to go to the warrant magistrate. His lawyer filed a motion in 2009 to have this court case moved from juv court to circuit, so there is not a current order for visitation, so when Faiths biological father started calling after he was served with all the papers I filed I was worried that after more than a year of no calls no visits he would want a visit. So i file a motion for an emergency hearing for temporay full custody until my affidavit for default and other petitions can go before the judge. Faiths father has wide history of abuse and harrassment and assault and every time he calls he gets mad and cusses and hangs up on me, the last time my daughter saw him he attacked me infront of her, this is where my current protection from abuse comes in… So to some it up I am not looking to terminate his rights… he has not used the ones he had for four years, I am looking to get full custody where when and if he gets visitation it has to be supervised. So am i on the right track, ? motion to amend and change visitaion, contempt for non payment of child support. after the 30 days of grace to file. I filed an affidavit of default with all the evidence and copies that i have filed in this case .

  3. Janice says:

    My son has filed for visitation and his wife is refusing to sign the papers what should he do now? He didn’t have the money to hire a lawyer

    • Lee Borden says:

      Your son can take advantage of the help available through child services in his state. They’re set up to help non-custodial parents just like they help custodial parents. He’ll have to pay child support, of course, but I assume he has no objection to that.

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