WHAT IS VISITATION? DO PARENTS HAVE A RIGHT TO VISITATION?
In cases where parents are separated or divorced, one parent will generally be deemed the “primary residential parent” or “custodial parent”, meaning that the child or children will reside primarily with that parent (See custody article written by our experienced Westchester Matrimonial LLC staff for more information about custody generally).
The “non-residential parent” or “non-custodial parent”, in general, has the right to meaningful visitation with and access to the child or children. It is important to note that before a court awards custody or visitation to either parent, the court is charged with the obligation of undertaking a “best interests” analysis in order to determine whether a particular custody or visitation scheme will serve the child or children’s best interests. (See custody article written by our experienced Westchester Matrimonial LLC staff for more information about the “best interests” analysis and the factors courts consider).
New York Courts have held that visitation is a right not only of the noncustodial parent, but also of the child. Absent extraordinary circumstances where visitation would be detrimental to child’s well-being, a noncustodial parent seeking visitation has a right to reasonable access and visitation.
There are several types of visitation, any of which may be ordered by a court based on the child’s best interests, including unsupervised visitation, supervised visitation and therapeutic visitation.
Unsupervised visitation is what is commonly thought of when the term “visitation is used”. Unsupervised visitation means that there need not be any other people present during the visit, the visit can occur at any reasonable place and time, or during the time ordered by the court.
Supervised visitation may be appropriate for non-custodial parents and their children when there is an indication or allegation of domestic abuse, drug or alcohol abuse, emotional instability, sexual abuse, possibility of abduction, or if there is an Order of Protection in place. In these circumstances, the court may appoint or the parties may select a supervised visitation specialist, or perhaps the parents can agree on a third party who will be present during all visits.
A therapeutic visit operates similar to a supervised visit, except that a licensed therapist is the person supervising the visit. The purpose of such visits is to repair or prevent damage to the child-parent relationship and are designed to help parents better interact with their children. A court may order a licensed therapist to supervise the visit or the parents may agree to select a therapist. Often, such therapists may be covered under one of the parents’ health insurance policies and this option should be fully explored.
Contact a Westchester Matrimonial LLC attorney today to discuss your questions related to visitation!