Can a parent who has sole legal custody/legal decision making deny visitation to their ex-spouse or ex-partner? It’s a sensitive topic and one that happens with significant regularity. The bottom line is that a parent with sole legal custody does not always have sole custody. In most cases, the courts grant joint physical parenting time to both parents.
This means that both parents are entitled to their allotted parenting time. A parent who denies the other parent access to the child during their allotted time does so at their peril. Unless there is a valid reason, such as the other parent is drunk or under the influence of drugs, which could endanger the child, the courts may find the parent in contempt of the custody orders. Parents are obligated to follow the order that is in place until changed by the Judge.
Violating Visitation and Parenting Time Rights
ARS 25-414 spells out violations of parenting time and the associated penalties. There are numerous levers the court can pull when this happens. If a parent unduly denies access to the child during the other parent’s allotted parenting time, the following can occur:
- The court can charge the violating parent with contempt of court.
- The court can order the amendment of parenting or visitation time to “make up” for the time lost.
- The court can order the violating parent to complete parent education courses.
- The court can order family counseling to be paid for by the violating parent.
- Both parents can be ordered into mediation or another alternative dispute resolution process at the expense of the violating parent.
- The court can remove the child from the violating parent’s home or modify the orders to prevent further violations.
- The court can assess civil penalties of a maximum of $100 per violation.
What to Do When Parenting Time Is Lost
Emotions can run high when the other parent unduly denies parenting time. When this happens, it is crucial to stay calm. Parents should document the event and contact their attorney to proceed with putting the matter in front of the judge. It is crucial not to escalate the situation by forcing a confrontation. When confrontations occur, these can get heated quickly. This can result in a whole host of other problems to deal with, including physical confrontation. While it is frustrating and unfair, it is not worth risking the long-term loss of contact with the child. Allow your attorney and the judge to pursue the matter on your behalf.
What About Sole Legal Decision Making?
When a parent has sole legal decision making authority, the other parent cannot interfere with critical decisions. For example, if the parent with the legal authority to make decisions regarding healthcare, education, or religion, decides on one thing, the other parent can voice their opinion. However, the parent granted sole legal decision making has the final say as to what medical procedures will be undertaken, what school the child will attend, and what religion they will be raised within.
Unlike joint physical parenting time, the parent with sole legal decision making authority does not need to consult the other parent on any decision related to the child’s upbringing. Failure to consult the other parent or deny them access to consultations regarding healthcare, education, etc. will not result in any penalties.
Contact Simon Law Group, PLLC, at (480) 405-7568 for more information about sole legal custody/legal decision making in Arizona. It is our pleasure to answer your questions and help you understand your rights to visitation and other factors in your child’s life.