Child visitation rights are never something taken lightly by courts, and parties should never be afraid to pursue the proper legal remedies to make sure their rights are enforced. No matter the locale, courts generally abide by the belief that it is in the best interests of a child to spend time with both parents, and this certainly holds true in Tennessee. Because of the importance that courts place on the child’s best interest when determining custody arrangements, child visitation rights can rarely, if ever, be legally denied by the custodial parent.
In Tennessee, Tennessee Code Annotated Section 36-6-502 dictates that separated parents shall comply with whatever visitation agreement they have in place with the court. While the most common examples of a denial of visitation involve things like the primary custodial parent simply refusing to allow the other parent their co-parenting time with the child, visitation can be denied in much more subtle ways. It is not uncommon for parents to withhold or deny visitation time to varying degrees based on reasoning such as not liking the other parent’s new significant other, claiming the child is sick, or even making up other scheduled activities for the child. Even if visitation is legitimately interrupted for something like an emergency, the other parent must be notified so that they can be allowed some level of visitation. No matter the reason, denying visitation or parenting time in violation of a court order is an act for which a parent can be held accountable.
Even certain “bad acts” of the other parent cannot be used as a basis for completely denying visitation. For example, if a parent is behind on required child support payments, the other parent cannot deny visitation based on the delinquent child support obligation. While that may be a legitimate legal issue for the recipient of child support to pursue, it does not provide a basis for denying court-ordered parenting time. Of course, if either parent ever legitimately believes the child is being placed in danger, they should not hesitate to contact law enforcement or the Department of Children’s Services, but should also keep in mind that false accusations could be reason for a court to find harassment against the other parent.
In the event that rights are denied, it is important that the parent timely document each denial or act of the other parent. This will greatly aid any potential legal action to help ensure that rights are enforced. A parent who denies the other of their court-ordered rights may be held in contempt and be fined, or possibly jailed. A court may also adjust the existing custody arrangement in a way that is more favorable to the other parent, or even give them full custody in extreme circumstances. Regardless, visitation rights are never something to be taken lightly or ignored, and parents who are being denied their legally required time with their children should not hesitate to contact an attorney for assistance.