Visitation Rights for the Father
Visitation between the father of your child and your child can be a thorny issue when the relationship between the parents goes awry. The question of whether you have to let the dad see the child depends in large part on your particular circumstances. Generally, the answer lies in whether the father has enforceable rights. This depends on whether there is a court order in place.
Abide By the Court Order
Generally speaking, if there is a court order in place for visitation, you have a duty to abide by that order. That means that you must let the dad see the child. There is a caveat to this general rule, however, and it is a big one. You must abide by the court’s order unless the visitation puts the child at immediate risk of irreparable harm. In that case, you have a duty to protect your child.
If the child is at risk of imminent harm from contact with the father, the solution is not just to withhold visitation. That violates the court’s order. Instead, you should seek an emergency custody order. An emergency custody motion can be filed and heard within 72 hours. This can protect your child and does not ignore the court’s order.
Grounds for an Emergency Custody Order
To get an emergency custody order, you must show the judge that the child is in surroundings that endanger the child. The child must be at risk of irreparable harm by spending time with the father. The motion can be supported by a report by either the police or the Department of Human Services.
You could also get a signed and notarized affidavit that shows the likelihood of harm. The affidavit must be truthful and made from personal knowledge. Any falsehoods are punishable by making that party pay attorney’s fees, up to 6 months in county jail, and a possible fine of up to $1000 (Okla. Stat. tit. 43 § 107.4).
No Marriage and No Court Order?
If you and the father of the child are not married and there is no court order in place, you may not have to let the father see the child. In essence, you have sole custody of the child, so you can decide. The question then becomes whether you should allow visitation.
Reasons Why You Might Want to Let the Dad See the Child
Study after study shows that children do better when they have a continuous relationship with both parents. If your child has had a relationship with the dad since birth, depriving the child of that relationship is a real loss for the child.
However, if the child has not had a continuous relationship with the dad, there may be reasons to take it slow or to supervise any contact to ensure that the child is safe and comfortable during the contact.
If you are in a situation in which the dad will likely seek to enforce his rights to the child, allowing the contact will show the court that you are willing to work toward the child’s best interests.
This may become important if the dad decides to establish paternity and seek custody. A court is more likely to allow you to keep custody if you are willing to ensure a continuous relationship with the dad, as long as there are no safety concerns.
Married but No Court Order?
If you are married to the child’s father but have no court order in place, you and the father have equal rights under the law with regard to custody and visitation. That means that even though there may not be an order in place, you may wish to allow contact absent any safety concerns. The dad can always file for custody of the child if you deny him the right to see his child.
These are highly sensitive issues. Before you make any decisions, you should seek counsel with an experienced Wagoner child custody attorney. Each situation is unique and you need to know how the law will affect your particular situation.
Free Consultation with a Wagoner Child Custody Attorney
Your children are so important. Get the help you need today to understand how to best handle your situation. The Wirth Law Office – Wagoner offers its clients the best possible divorce, child custody, and child support representation in the Wagoner, Oklahoma area at reasonable rates.
We invite you to schedule a free consultation to discuss what we can do for you. Contact the Wirth Law Office – Wagoner at (918) 485-0335 to schedule your free consultation. You can also fill out the form at the top of this page.