Child Custody: Do I Have to Force My Child to Visit the Other Parent?

Dealing with child custody and visitation rights matters can be a complex and emotional process for everyone. Both parents, their divorce lawyers, and the judge presiding over the case are all trying to form a custody agreement that works for the child’s best interests. The problem is that all of these interested parties may have different ideas about what that means. Understanding the laws that affect custody agreements and visitation rights in Mississippi is the first step in ensuring the safety and welfare of your child. It’s also an excellent way to protect your legal rights as a parent.

The Law Offices of Rusty Williard in Brandon, MS, specializes in family law and divorce proceedings. We have decades of experience assisting clients with custody arrangements and visitation agreements. Our child custody attorney can help you achieve the outcome you’re hoping for after your divorce and ensure that your child’s best interests are protected.

Visitation and Custody Rights in Mississippi

When parents get divorced, figuring out what happens with their children can be a complicated matter. In Mississippi, the law usually assigns one parent as the “custodial parent” (meaning the child primarily lives with them) and deems the other the “noncustodial parent” (meaning they have a visitation schedule to see the child). This is the case for most divorces, unless it can be proven that one parent is not acting in the child’s best interest.

The law gets a bit more complicated when it comes to grandparents, aunts, uncles, or other family members wanting to spend time with the child. The rules aren’t as straightforward as parental rights, and sometimes, people end up disagreeing and taking their cases to court.

No matter who’s asking to spend time with the child, the most important thing for the courts in Mississippi is what’s best for the child. They have a lot of freedom to decide what will make the child happiest and healthiest. This could mean different things for different family situations, so the court looks at each situation carefully when determining custody and visitation.

The Custodial Parent’s Obligations

If the court has established a visitation schedule, the custodial parent is legally required to follow it. Failure to adhere to the court-ordered schedule can lead to legal consequences that create even more emotional turmoil.

If a child doesn’t want to attend visitation as set by the court, however, the custodial parent is in a difficult position. Generally, the court’s expectation is that the custodial parent must ensure that the visitation schedule is followed, even if the child is reluctant to attend. The best way a parent can deal with this challenging situation is to:

  • Try to Understand Why: Try to understand why the child is reluctant to follow the visitation schedule. Are there specific reasons? Is the child just adjusting to the new situation, or are there more serious concerns like safety or neglect?
  • Work Together with the Other Parent: If possible, the custodial parent should communicate with the non-custodial parent about the child’s feelings and concerns. Together, they might find a way to make visits more enjoyable and less stressful for the child.
  • Seek a Custody Modification if Necessary: If the child’s reluctance is based on serious issues, or if their safety and security are at risk, the custodial parent may need to request a modification of the visitation agreement from the court. This process usually involves proving that there has been a change in circumstances that justifies changing the order. You’ll have to argue that the new plan you’re proposing is better for the child’s interests than the old one, and you’ll have to use the evidence you’ve uncovered to prove it. This is where seeking professional advice from an experienced Mississippi divorce lawyer can make all the difference in your case.
  • Seek Professional Advice: In situations where communication between parents is not possible or if the child’s reasons for not wanting to attend visitation are complex, seeking advice from a family law attorney in Mississippi can help. The Law Offices of Rusty Williard can provide strategies to handle the custody modification process, and we can help defend your rights as a parent.

Modifying Visitation Orders

Life circumstances change, and so can visitation agreements. Both parents have the right to request a modification of the visitation order if significant changes in their circumstances occur. The court will consider these requests with the child’s best interests in mind, and they’re usually not swayed by the parent’s wishes. Any modifications to a court-ordered custody agreement must be made to improve the child’s health and safety.

Frequently Asked Questions about Custody and Visitation Rights in Mississippi

Can Visitation Be Denied if Child Support Is Not Paid?

No, visitation cannot be denied even if child support has not been paid. Child support and visitation are treated separately by Mississippi law. Withholding visitation because of unpaid child support can lead to legal troubles for the custodial parent.

What if the Visitation Schedule Is Not Working?

If the visitation schedule isn’t working, the best first step is to try and talk it out with the other parent. If you both can agree on a new plan, you might not need to go back to court. But if you can’t find common ground, you’ll need to request a formal change to the visitation order and prove that the change is in the child’s best interest.

What Should a Parent Do If They Feel the Other Parent Is Unfit for Visitation?

  • Document Concerns: Keep detailed records of any incidents or behaviors that contribute to your concerns.
  • Speak with a Custody Lawyer: Sign up for a free consultation with our family law attorney to understand your options and the process for addressing these concerns legally.

Call The Law Offices of Rusty Williard for All Your Custody Needs

At The Law Offices of Rusty Williard in Brandon, MS, we have decades of experience with child custody and visitation laws in Mississippi. If you’re facing challenges related to child custody, visitation, or any family law issue, we’re here to help. Call our office today at (601) 824-9797 for a free consultation.