Authored by Malcolm Tatum in Parenting
Published on 12-20-2009
When a divorce occurs, one parent is assigned by the courts to be the primary caregiver to any children that were the product of the marriage. Because divorce and child custody laws vary so much from one jurisdiction to another, the rights of the non-custodial parent will also differ, depending on the laws that apply in the court of jurisdiction. There are a few basic rights that tend to apply across jurisdictional lines, although the avenues for recourse when these rights are violated differ greatly from one area to another.
One of the basic rights of a non-custodial parent is the right to spend time with his or her children on a regular basis. This particular right is usually defined as part of the divorce decree, where the financial responsibilities of the non-custodial parent toward the child or children are determined. In most cases, the courts will approve a specific schedule that is intended to assure the parent not living with the children to does get to spend with the kids on a regular basis, including some holidays. Unless there are extenuating circumstances that give the court reason to believe contact with the non-custodial parent would not be in the best interests of the children, most courts will define these visitation privileges as the minimum allowed. Some courts go as far as encouraging parents to work together and find ways to allow the non-custodial parent to spend additional time with the children.
Unfortunately, not all court jurisdictions offer non-custodial parents much in the way of recourse when the custodial parent refuses to comply with the ruling of the court. To their credit, some jurisdictions will step in and take legal action if the inherent right of a child to have a relationship with both parents is interfered with, including placing the non-complaint custodial parent under arrest. However, other jurisdictions require the non-custodial parent to file a formal suit before any action is taken, a costly measure that is sometimes not possible, especially if a substantial portion of the non-custodial parent’s net income is already going for child support, health insurance for the children, and other essentials.
In a best case scenario, a non-custodial parent retains parental privileges, including the right to pick up a son or daughter from school, sign medical documents if a child requires medical attention, or requires the consent of a parent for some other purpose. However, these rights are often limited to situations where the parents choose a joint custody arrangement. If the non-custodial parent is not granted at least partial custody, then many healthcare agencies will not recognize the parental status and will not move forward with treatment unless the custodial parent agrees. While it is possible to secure a power of attorney that gives the non-custodial parent these rights and privileges for a short period of time, they do not remain as constant rights.
When facing an impending divorce, it is important to understand the structure of child custody laws in the jurisdiction where the custody will be created and approved. This is true even if the custodial parent plans on transporting the child to another jurisdiction once the marriage is dissolved. Understanding the laws that apply, and what avenues of recourse are open in the event that parental rights are violated, is extremely important. Without this knowledge, it is impossible to determine how to arrange the custody agreement in a way that is in the best interests of the children involved.