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Can one parent deny visitation or a custody exchange?

On Behalf of | Jun 12, 2024 | Child Custody

In some child custody situations, one parent will have primary physical custody most of the time, but the other parent will have visitation rights. The child may never live with that parent full-time, but may spend an afternoon or a day with them. In some cases, visitation could even include a weekend. Every case is unique. 

Conflicts sometimes arise when the parent who has custody doesn’t want to make the exchange. Are they ever allowed to deny visitation rights or refuse to make the exchange in accordance with the custody schedule? Do they have this ability because they have primary custody rights? 

Only if there is a legitimate danger to the child

In essence, the answer is no, in that it is almost always illegal for a parent to deny visitation rights or refuse to exchange custody of the child. They have to follow the court-mandated custody order. This is even true if they are seeking a modification to that order. Until the modification has been made, they must abide by the regulations the court has already established.

The one exception to this is if there is a legitimate danger to the child. For example, if the parent arrived to pick the child up for visitation and they were intoxicated, then it may be legal to deny visitation and protect the child. This may also be legal if there is clear evidence of abuse. But, outside of these cases where a legitimate danger can be identified, the custody order must be followed.  

When disputes arise, or if a parent is illegally denied custody or visitation rights, then it’s quite important for them to understand all of the legal options they have at their disposal.