To ensure that you have all the opportunities you should have as a non-custodial parent, it's important to understand your rights. Just because you don't have custody, doesn't mean that you have given up your right to be a parent. With that said, making your non-custodial parental rights clear on a divorce agreement is imperative.
Rights of Non-Custodial Parents: Your Parenting Plan
The rights of non-custodial parents are not as clear as you might have hoped they would be. Many times, divorce agreements will contain vague descriptions of what your rights are as the non-custodial parent. For example, it may state that you have regular visitation, however it doesn't provide details, which means you could end up having limited face time with your children. When it comes time to discuss your divorce settlement with your soon-to-be-ex-spouse or with the divorce attorney, make sure to include the following detailed information about your rights as a non-custodial parent.
Visitation Days and Times
In the divorce settlement, write down the exact days and times you plan to visit with your children. You may also want to record an alternate day and time if for some reason there is a missed visitation.
Non-custodial parents may have the right to spend holidays with their children but they need to document it in the divorce agreement. With your spouse, decide which holidays the children will spend with you and write down the dates. You may want to alternate years for major holidays; for example in the years your children spend Christmas with the other parent, you would have them for Easter.
Contact from Custodial Parent
Think about what type of contact, if any, you would like your children to have with the custodial parent when you are spending time with them. Would you be okay with phone calls, emails, or other forms of communication from the custodial parent during "your time"? Make your requests clear about what would make you most comfortable.
Access to Records
List all records that you would like to have access to that the custodial parent has or can request. You may not feel as though you will need to look at school and/or medical records of your children now, but if something comes up and you want to later on, you may regret not asking for that permission from the outset.
Knowledge and Involvement in Activities
There will be many decisions about school and other extra-curricular activities as your children grow, and you may want to have some say in what they do. So that you won't be in the dark when it comes to important decisions about your children, make a point to include that you would like to be informed of all the school activities in which your children are involved.
Enforcing Your Rights as a Non Custodial Parent
With detailed information in the divorce agreement about your rights as a non-custodial parent, there shouldn't be much room for miscommunication. If the custodial parent violates the court ordered parenting plan, you do have the right to enforce it by doing the following:
- Attempt to rectify the situation with the custodial parent.
- Record the exact acts of violation.
- Contact your divorce attorney for advice.
- Pursue court action if the situation does not improve.
- Involve police to escort children to your care during your visitation time.
Before getting the police involved, consider that this could cause a great deal of distress for your children. It's best to exhaust all other possibilities of enforcing your rights before turning to this method.
In the Best Interests of Your Children
Non-custodial parental rights are about sustaining the bond you have with your children, not about getting revenge on your spouse. Consider your children's best interests when deciding on the specifics of visitation. Your children will thank you for making this part of the separation less stressful.