Child visitation, according to New York State law, can be awarded to an unmarried couple sharing a child. However, without a marriage certificate or an “Acknowledgement of Paternity,” the father does not have custody or visitation rights. In order to remedy this, one must legally establish paternity, granting the father frequent visitation if he so chooses. There are many types of visitation, with varying degrees of supervision and frequency. Some of these options include:
• Supervised Visits: Though the specific terms are subjective, these visits occur between the child and the parent under the supervision of someone selected by the court. These supervised visits often take place when there is a previous cause for concern on behalf of the custodial parent, such as a history of domestic violence.
• Therapeutic Supervised Visits: Visits such as these take place in the presence of a mental health professional, who instructs the supervised parent on various techniques that can strengthen his or her relationship with the child.
• Neutral Location for Exchange: Parents can agree on a neutral location at which an exchange of visitation with the child can take place; this can include a school, library, police station, etc. This can also be ordered by the court.
• Monitored Transition: A visit such as this provides a third person when transitioning between the two parents takes place, ensuring the comfortability and safety of the child.
It must be noted that visitation rights are not synonymous with child support. While we are happy to argue the specificities of child support arrangements, the two are completely independent. This requires that visitations continue to take place regardless of one’s failure to pay child support, and that child support agreements are not susceptible to change based on one’s frequency of visitation. Should there be problems entailing visitation schedules, this is best taken up with the court so they can enforce or modify it as they see fit; withholding visitation may result in a judge ordering a change of custody. However, the court may also restrict, suspend, or revoke visitation rights should the child’s physical, emotional, or moral health be at stake. This includes instances in which supervised visits are preferable, including:
• An increased likelihood that the parents would abduct the child.
• A history of domestic violence, towards either the parent or child, that would potentially harm the child.
• A history of mental illness, in which the condition of the parent would put the child in harm’s way.
• A history of substance abuse that would lead the parent to act dangerously in front of the child.
Visitation rights do not only apply to parents; siblings, half-siblings, and grandparents can apply for visitation as well.