One of the most painful aspects of divorce is the separation of one parent from the children. Indeed, he or she may begin to feel not a parent at all but rather just a visitor in the child’s life. Ideally, a 50/50 joint physical custody should be presumed by Family Law. Until such a time, however, the system can feel like it exists to spite the non-custodial parent.
Such parents do indeed have inalienable rights with their children, except in cases where significant abuse or neglect has been proved. They have the right to visit their children, and according to a set schedule. Such consistency of routine is also, invariably, beneficial to the children. Non-custodial parents also have the right to holiday time, to access their children’s school and medical records, and to pay child support in an amount that fairly reflects what they’re able to earn.
Unfortunately, most of these rights can be difficult to enforce – for two reasons. First, the laws are ambiguous in a lot of areas, and secondly, the wording of parents’ divorce agreements may be too vague to hold substantial weight in court. Whatever is written in a court order pertaining to custody – whether it’s called a visitation schedule or a parenting plan, is what’s legally enforceable. For this reason, the best defense that non-custodial parents have is to try and foresee any difficulties or misunderstandings they may have with former spouses and try to clearly define what arrangements would work for both parties before committing anything to paper.
The most hotly contested issue in court cases involving custody is visitation rights. This is because, again, the wording of it may have no obviously defined meaning. “Liberal and frequent visitation” may sound like a great arrangement, but the exact interpretation of that may end up being subject to the custodial parent’s whims of the moment. A visitation schedule should have exact dates and times clearly written out. Another recurring issue that’s often contested is residential moves. One’s parenting plan should anticipate this, and declare in writing whether such a thing (the custodial parent moving with children to a distant state, or even out of the country) will even be permissible at all.
Other issues that should be addressed in the parenting plan are whether or not, and by what means, children can be contacted when they’re with the custodial parent. Holiday times should de clearly defined – exact days, and with whom. There should be a provision in there guaranteeing the non-custodial parent the right to access children’s school and medical records. If parents live a fair distance away from each other, who will provide transportation? Who will attend school and extracurricular activities? These are also concerns that should be addressed in writing.
Keep in mind that child support and child custody are separate issues, legally speaking. Withholding support payments is not a valid response to denied visitation – nor is the reverse true. If your child’s custodial parent is not honoring your rights as outlined in your parenting plan, your best option is to keep a record of these violation – for example, on a calendar. Then you will have something to refer to, and build your case upon, should the need arise for you to get a cheap divorce lawyer in Singapore and take action in court.
Severe and/or repeated violations can often provide the grounds for a change in custody. Actions made by the custodial parent to alienate a child from the other parent, to interfere with visitation rights, or to take the child out of the state without the others consent can all lead to liability in court.