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What are the rights and responsibilities of noncustodial parents?

Understanding your parental rights and responsibilities is the first step to being prepared for any kind of family court matter involving children. Whether you are trying to get custody, asking for more visitation or requesting a modification to an existing order, being fully informed on these rights and responsibilities helps you go into the courts with a clear understanding of your options and possible outcomes.

Most importantly, noncustodial parents have the right to access and visitation. The only exception to this is when there are allegations of physical or sexual abuse or if there are other extreme extenuating circumstances. If there are allegations or a history of family violence, visitation may be restricted or allowed with supervision only, but the noncustodial parent usually retains the right to visitation.

Noncustodial parents also have the right to ask for a court-ordered visitation schedule and to ask that an existing visitation schedule or custody agreement be modified if necessary to fit the best interests of the children. However, it's important to note that in a sole custody arrangement, the noncustodial parent may have to present a very strong case to get a modification or change of custody, and any desires to do this should be discussed with a family law attorney.

Noncustodial parents — and really all parents — also have the responsibility to fulfill the visitation schedule, coming on time for each scheduled parenting time and returning the children on time as well. They also have the responsibility to co-parent as respectfully and civilly as possible. Children suffer the most when there is animosity between their parents, making it crucial that the parents work out any issues away from the children and with their best interests in mind.

Source: Department of Children and Family Services, "Child Support Enforcement Access and Visitation," accessed March 30, 2016

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