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Bay Area Family Attorneys > Blog > Child Custody Visitation > I Have Sole Physical Custody – Do I Have to Allow Visitation?

I Have Sole Physical Custody – Do I Have to Allow Visitation?


If you have sole physical custody of your child, there is likely a very good reason for that. The courts try to promote the child’s best interests in all circumstances. The fact that one parent has been granted sole physical custody of a child says a great deal. For one reason or another, the court saw it to be in the child’s best interest to forego some form of shared or joint custody – although, to the extent possible and responsible, courts favor a custody/visitation arrangement that encourages the child to have a relationship with both parents throughout their life.

However you came to have sole physical custody of your child – you have likely been through a lot. You may have had to demonstrate to the court that your child’s other parent should NOT have physical custody rights. You may have shown that the other parent has simply been absent. After going through the processes to gain sole physical custody, you may be wondering if you have to allow visitation to your child’s other parent.  Maybe the other parent is making demands to spend time with your child. This article is going to answer some frequently asked questions on whether parents with sole physical custody must allow visitation from the other parent.

Do I Have to Allow Visitation if I Have a Temporary Custody Order?

Whether the court order was temporary or not – it is still a court order. If the order does not require you to grant visitation, then the order does not require it. You are not mandated to allow for it if the court has not demanded it.

However, you should bear in mind that temporary orders are temporary and any child custody or visitation order is potentially modifiable.  If the court sees you as being too restrictive or inflexible, it may be more deferential toward your child’s other parent. Courts try to promote both parents’ relationships with a child and ensure access to both parents if it is feasible and if is in the child’s best interest. This is, of course, not always the case. Sometimes a parent is a danger to the child and should not have access to them. However, parents should be prepared to discuss with the court the reasoning behind their actions. They should also anticipate that courts default to encouraging the child to have a relationship with both parents, absent a compelling reason this should not be the case.

Do I Have to Allow Visitation if I was awarded Sole Physical Custody following a hearing or as part of a Final Judgment?

As noted earlier, no custody order is ever set in stone. Temporary orders can be modified if it is the child’s best interest to do so. More permanent orders – for example, those which issue after an evidentiary hearing or as part of the final judgment in a divorce, are still subject to change if it can be shown that there are significant changes in circumstances.

Similar to the discussion about temporary orders above, if the court has not mandated that visitation be given then there is not a court-ordered requirement to do so. However, you need to bear in mind that custody orders CAN be modified.

If you are barring visitation for reasons other than the wellbeing and safety of the child then you should bear in mind that you may be seen as inflexible or guilty of “gatekeeping,” neither of which look good in front of the court.

If the other parent’s requests are unreasonable, you do not necessarily have to acquiesce. But, if there is a way to safely facilitate a relationship between child and the other parent, this may be a viable option. You never want to look as though you are trying to frustrate their relationship. Honoring reasonable visitation requests demonstrates that you are acting as a reasonable parent and may save yourself a lot of time and trouble down the road.

The Other Parent Abandoned My Child – Do I Have to Allow Visitation?

Again, if the court has not ordered you to do something then the court has not ordered it. Issues of abandonment and neglect can be particularly challenging for children to overcome. Additionally, a parent who has demonstrated neglectful behavior in the past may enter the child’s life only to disrupt it and leave again. This reality, however, should be considered along with the great value of a child being able to have at least some positive relationship with their parent.

Contact Cardwell, Steigerwald Young

Consulting with a child therapist and working with experts can help you navigate these difficult situations. The child custody and visitation specialists at Cardwell, Steigerwald Young can help you determine what steps forward may be best in your own unique circumstances.






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