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Answers to Frequently Asked Questions
about Custody and Visitation

How do I obtain custody of my child?
Where can I find information about missing children?
Can fathers obtain custody?
Can a child have input into a custody decision?
What is supervised visitation?
When do grandparents or other relatives have custody or visitation rights ?
What happens if the non-custodial parent refuse to return the child to the parent with custody?
Are visitation rights contingent on the payment of child support?
How do I exercise my visitation rights, if the non-custodial parent is denying me access to my child?


How do I obtain custody of my child?

Either one of the separated parents may petition a court in for custody of a child. If the parties cannot agree about who should have custody, the court will grant custody either solely to one of the parents or joint custody to both of the parents. The standard for granting custody in almost every jurisdiction is the "best interest of the child."

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Where can I find information about missing children?

National Center for Missing and Exploited Children
2101 Wilson Boulevard, Suite 550
Arlington, VA 22201
Telephone: 703-235-3900
Hotline: 1-800-843-5678

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Can fathers obtain custody?

In general, fathers can gain custody of their children. The law in most jurisdictions no longer favors one parent over the other. The parent seeking custody must meet the same criteria: what is in the best interests of the child.

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Can a child have input into a custody decision?

Courts will sometimes listen to the wishes of older children. Courts rarely take into account the wishes of very young children. Children who are 16 years or older may petition the court themselves for a change in custody.

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What is supervised visitation?

Supervised visitation means that the non-custodial parent may not spend time alone with the child. It usually also means that the non-custodial parent may visit the child at a particular time and in a particular place.

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When do grandparents or other relatives have custody or visitation rights?

Generally, the natural parents will have a presumptive right to custody. Only in cases where the parents are found to be unfit, or there are exceptional circumstances, will third parties be granted custody. At any time after a divorce, grandparents may petition the court for visitation rights.

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What happens if the non-custodial parent refuse to return the child to the parent with custody?

In general, if a child is under twelve years of age, it is unlawful to keep that child for more than 48 hours, or remove the child from the state for more than 48 hours, after the lawful custodian has demanded the child's return.

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Are visitation rights contingent on the payment of child support?

No. Visitation rights may not be denied to the non-custodial parent, even though the non-custodial parent is not paying child support.

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How do I exercise my visitation rights, if the non-custodial parent is denying me access to my child?

You may seek a court order defining your visitation rights. Violation of this court order will result in the custodial parent being held in contempt of court.

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