Friday, May 20, 2011
By: Obi Chukwu
What is Visitation or Parenting Time and Who is Entitled to it?
Visitation rights between a noncustodial parent and a child is essential to the continuance of a parent-child relationship. A noncustodial parent is the parent who does not have either legal or physical custody of the child or both. The parent who has physical custody of the child is the parent with whom the child is living on a day to day basis. The court must grant the noncustodial parent visitation rights to enable that parent to maintain a child to parent relationship that is in the best interests of the child. In year 2000, Minnesota law changed what was previously referred to as вАЬvisitationвАЭ or вАЬvisitation rightsвАЭ to вАЬparenting timeвАЭ.
Limitations to Parenting Time
Generally the law provides that if the parenting time of a noncustodial parent is like to endanger the childвАЩs physical or emotion health or impair the emotion al development of the child, the court can restrict the noncustodial parentвАЩs parenting time. The court however, can only do so after a haring on the matter and a finding that the child is in danger of physical harm.
Also the court can limit custody or parenting time when a parent has been convicted of certain crimes. Some of these crimes include but are not limited to: assault in the first, second, or third degree, malicious punishment of a child, neglect of a child, terroristic threats, felony stalking, etc.
Under these circumstances, a person who has been convicted of one or more of these crimes has the burden of showing that custody or visitation by that person is in the best interests of the child. This is called the вАШburden shifting statute.вАЩ Also the law requires a guardian ad litem to be appointed in any case where this statute applies.
Guardian Ad Litem
A guardian ad litem or GAL is an advocate for a child or children whose welfare is a matter of concern for the court. In legal terms, a GAL means “guardian for the lawsuit”. When the court is making decisions that will affect a child’s future, the child needs and deserves a spokesperson – an objective adult to provide independent information about the best interests of the child. While other parties in the case are concerned about the child, the Guardian ad Litem is the only person in the case whose sole concern is the best interests of the child, and he or she is assigned as an advocate for the child for the duration of the court process. Different from a legal guardian, the Guardian ad Litem has no control over the person or property of the child and does not provide a home for the child. The Guardian ad Litem does not function as the child’s attorney and does not provide direct services to the child.
A custody evaluation is an evaluation about custody of the children conducted by a professional who is usually a psychologist or social worker, who assesses the familyвАЩs situation and then makes recommendations to the court about a parenting and custodial arrangements that will meet the children’s needs. Judges often give a lot of weight to the recommendations of the custody evaluator, therefore it is very important to be properly prepared for this process.
A custody evaluation or the appointments of a GAL are very effective methods of resolving some of the critical disputes that often endanger a smooth custody determination process. Attorney Obi Chukwu has helped several clients successfully through the custody evaluation process and achieved desirable results. He has also helped clients make the best use of the process to get positive results even in the most acrimonious situations. Attorney Chukwu has the experience and knowledge it takes to understand what a custody evaluation means for you and how it can affect your custody case. In one situation, opposing counsel tried to use the process to delay temporary custody for Mr. ChukwuвАЩs client. Mr. Chukwu effectively brought to light the factual and legal analysis that showed his client deserved custody during the process, which led to a recommendation of custody for his client.
If you have questions about Parenting Time, GAL, Child Custody arrangements or any other issues in this article, contact an experienced family law attorney. Consult a family lawyer to determine what process is relevant to your particular case or situation or for any of the issues raised in this article.
Nothing in this article should be taken as legal advice for an individual case or situation. The information is intended to be general and should not be relied upon for any specific situation. For legal advice, consult an attorney experienced in family law.