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Child Custody | Family

How Do Fathers Get Visitation Rights?

7 min read
Blair Matyszczyk, Attorney

by Blair Matyszczyk, Attorney

Fathers get visitation rights through the child custody process, which often occurs as part of a divorce, but not always. When a custody arrangement does not account for visitation rights, and a father wishes to petition a court to obtain visitation rights, the father will have to go through a series of steps to legally obtain court-ordered rights. If you are a father wishing to be granted visitation rights to see your child, you are not alone.

Many fathers lack the basic right to see their child except in rare situations. When two parents to a child do not live together nor are intimately involved with one another, a court often intervenes to ensure a child is properly cared for and all action taken by either parent is in the child’s best interests. Most visitation agreements can be negotiated between parents, but a judge will still have to approve any plan setting forth a father’s rights to visitation.

Unbundled Legal Help provides fathers with access to legal services that fit your situation. If you are seeking visitation rights, Unbundled Legal Help can connect you today with a local family law attorney.

“Unbundled” attorneys provide clients with a menu of “a la carte” legal services so you can pick and choose what you need help with. Some fathers may need full legal representation, requiring an attorney to handle the bulk of a visitation matter; while others need only need minimal help, such as confirmation that all steps have been followed properly and perhaps the assistance of having an attorney present in court.¬†We offer a free, no-obligation consultation. You have nothing to lose by discussing your situation with an Unbundled Lawyer.

Steps to Seek Lawful Visitation Rights

All states have unique custody and visitation laws, so it is important to ensure you are following the laws of the state in which your child lives and are filing all required paperwork with the right court. Most family law courts provide forms for parents to complete. 

The steps below provide a general framework for what you can do to seek visitation rights. You can utilize an attorney for some or all of these steps, depending on your specific needs. Keep in mind that no attorney can guarantee a certain result, but working with an attorney, at least for certain aspects of a visitation matter, has helped many fathers reach their goals of seeing their child regularly.

Step 1: Speak with Your Child’s Other Parent

Obtaining visitation rights will require some cooperation between the child’s parents. If you can begin the discussion of arranging a visitation agreement with your child’s other parent, that will help to open the door to a formal process in court. Formulating a fair and reasonable parenting plan that accounts for your visitation rights as a father is a good first step. 

Step one is not possible in every father’s situation, as parents may not get along. As such, please read on to learn what to do when you and your child’s other parent are not able to work together without argument or fighting.

Step 2: Consider Working with a Family Law Attorney

Many parents may be unable to speak cordially about even the basic of issues, let alone a child custody and visitation matter. If you do not have a healthy or safe relationship with your child’s other parent, you may need the assistance and advice of a family law attorney who can guide you through the steps you need to take when the other parent is not being cooperative. An attorney can help to facilitate negotiation either directly with the other parent or with the other parent’s attorney.

Step 3: File a Petition in Court 

Because visitation rights must be granted by a court, you will need to file a petition in the court in which your child lives. The petition will ask for biographical information, will ask for documentation of paternity, and will begin the process of creating a custody and visitation arrangement to be eventually approved by a court. If you have a proposed parenting and visitation plan ready to go, a judge will only need to review the plan to ensure the child’s bests interests is the number one focus and that the child will benefit from having a healthy relationship with both parents.

Step 4: Serve the Petition on Your Child’s Other Parent or Guardian

Once you have filed a petition in court seeking visitations rights, you will have to serve a copy of the petition on your child’s other parent. If you have already been working with your child’s other parent to formulate a parenting plan, this should be no surprise. However, if, for some reason, you are unable to communicate with your child’s other parent, the service of the petition may come as a surprise. In such cases, you may receive pushback from your child’s other parent, depending on your individual circumstances.

Step 5: Comply with Court Deadlines

After you file and serve your petition seeking to obtain visitation rights to see your child, you will be given deadlines to comply with, such as a court hearing to address the matter and determine what steps both parents must take to reach a fair agreement. Missing a court appearance reflects poorly on anyone asking the court to grant legal rights. Life happens, so if you must miss a court date, you can contact the court and ask for a continuance by filing additional forms with the court. 

Doing so is not difficult but can be confusing for anyone not familiar with filing documents with courts. As such, adhering to deadlines and showing up to court on time are critical to any custody or visitation matter. In the age of COVID, many courts now have court hearings conducted online, so a physical appearance in court may not always be required.

Step 6: Attempt Mediation

Mediation is an excellent way to resolve disputes. Some family law attorneys will mediate for both parents, while others may request that both parents retain their own attorneys. Although mediation can be difficult, fleshing out disagreements and creating a custody arrangement that includes your visitation rights as a father is a promising way to ultimately reach your goal of being able to see your child regularly.

Step 7: Finalize Parenting Plan

After completing mediation (if necessary), parents should ensure the proposed parenting plan is agreed upon by both parents and that both parents intend to follow the agreement. An attorney should review any parenting plan to ensure the plan complies with all laws and is fair for both parents and the child(ren).

Step 8: Obtain Court Approval of Parenting Plan and Visitation Schedule

Once both parents agree on a parenting plan that includes your visitation rights as a father, you will present the parenting plan to a judge, who will then approve the plan so long as the plan complies with state law, that the plan is fair for both parents, and most importantly, that the parenting plan and visitation arrangement is in your child’s best interests. Having a relationship with both parents is always favored by family law judges.

Spend Less without Compromising Quality – Contact Unbundled Today for a Free Consultation

Some fathers may have thousands or tens of thousands of dollars to hire an attorney to handle an entire visitation matter from start to finish. Many family law attorneys bill hourly, not only for their own work but also for the work of staff members in their office. Facing billable hours that have no limit in addition to court fees can be too much for many fathers.

Unbundled Legal Help understands that there is a large population of fathers who need the assistance of an attorney but do not have endless resources to dedicate to a visitation matter. By spending as little as between $500 and $1,500, Unbundled matches you with attorneys in your area who can provide you with just the legal services you need and nothing more.

Obtaining visitation rights does not mean you need an attorney to hold your hand the entire time. You may need some guidance and help with courtroom appearances, but you otherwise may be perfectly capable of achieving your desired result on your own. Unbundled Legal Help aims to match fathers with qualified lawyers who can provide cost-effective legal representation – even if you don’t have tens thousands of dollars to spend fighting over custody and visitation matters.

If you are a father wishing to obtain visitation rights, Unbundled Legal Help is ready to assist. We can connect you today with a local child custody lawyer to explain your options.

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