Child custody and visitation can be a simple matter in many cases if parties agree on all major issues and work together to raise their minor children. However, child custody and visitation can also be one of the most contentious and heavily litigated areas of any family law case if one or both parents isn't willing to work together and do what the court orders.
Pacheco v. Marulanda, a case from the Rhode Island Supreme Court, involved a fight over visitation. Mother filed a petition for joint legal custody of their minor child and physical custody in favor of herself. Father opposed this motion, primarily on ground she had not returned his personal property pursuant to a separate legal matter. After a hearing, family court judge determined mother would retain custody of child, and father would have visitation from Sunday at 10 a.m. to Monday at noon. Father was also ordered to continue with his alcohol education and treatment.
Less than two weeks following this order, father filed a motion for contempt of court, asserting mother had interfered with his visitation rights. Mother opposed his motion for contempt and argued for a modification of custody and suspension of visitation. In support of this motion, mother asserted father had broken into her home, stolen her jewelry, and was found intoxicated in a vehicle with four blown tires and her jewelry in his pockets.
He was arrested on charges of breaking and entering. At his arraignment, criminal court issued a stay away no contact order requiring him to have no contact with mother. Mother also asserted father had a serious substance abuse problem and was in fear for her and her daughter's safety. Mother specifically requested trial court grant her sole custody, suspend visitation, and require drug and alcohol testing before reinstating visitation.
After spending a great deal of time in judge's chambers, parties entered into an agreement where father would have one day of visitation each weekend with no overnight visitation, and all visits would be supervised by father's parents. Mother soon filed a motion to suspend this visitation, alleging visits were not being supervised as the court had ordered. During a hearing, father admitted he had not been supervised on three visits for various reasons. He also asserted he belief supervision was not necessary despite it being in trial judge's order. At this point, family court judge ordered all future visitation be at the courthouse until further notice.
Birmingham child custody lawyers understand a judge will suspend visitation of parent when absolutely necessary and in the best interest of the child, but this a last resort, and courts will make substantial efforts to allow at least some visitation.
Father appealed this order despite admitted violations in court visitation requirements, there was no showing of harm to his daughter. He also argued family court judge's reason for suspending unsupervised visitation was merely punitive.
Appellate court held trial judge as reasonable in requiring visits be supervised, given defendant's prior conduct. Trial judge was also correct in holding father in contempt for violating a reasonable court order, as father had admitted to violating an order which he didn't believe should be in place. For these reasons, appellate court affirmed trial court's order.
If you need help with a child custody issue in Birmingham, contact Family Law Attorney Steven Eversole at (866) 831-5292.