Visitation Issue: My child got hurt during visitation!
The Visitation Chronicles: Part Two- My child got hurt during visitation!
By M. J. Goodwin
I get at least three contacts a year from clients whose child has been injured in some way during visitation. The client typically wants to know what the Court is going to do about this injury. The short answer is nothing, unless the custodial parent can show criminal behavior, a substantial incident of abuse or neglect, or a pattern of abuse or neglect, that rises to the level of a change of circumstances. This is a very steep burden.
The sort of thing that might give rise to the Family Court changing or limiting visitation based on an injury might be a child that is injured in a DUI related car wreck; a child that is run over in a parking lot while a parent drinks inside a bar; a child that is wandering a highway alone while a parent is under the influence of alcohol or drugs; or a child that is molested by a person that the visiting parent knew or should have known was a threat. The more proof there is, the more likely the Court is to act. Simple injuries like falling off a bike, skinning a knee or falling on a coffee table and getting a black eye, typically would not rise to the level of changing visitation.
More complex situations, that involve repeated incidents of relatively minor neglect that result in a large succession of relatively minor injuries, must be documented over time before I would counsel a client to return to court on the issue.
In all cases involving children, the question that the Court must answer is what is in the best interest of the child? That is the overriding concern. The Court will view this question through a lens of what is normal (children do get hurt) and what is abuse or neglect. Even if the Court does find abusive or neglectful behavior by the visiting parent, termination of visitation is unlikely. Supervision would occur before termination occurs in most cases.
The ultimate answer to whether or not a Court will take action based on a particular set of facts and circumstances is as varied as there are facts and circumstances. It is prudent to consult with an experienced Family Court attorney if you truly believe your child is in danger during visitation.
MJ Goodwin can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org