Issue: Can a parent (A) deny parent (B) visitation rights with the children if Parent A has concerns regarding Parent B's behaviors?
Answer: Each case is unique. I remember a situation in which I represented a Mother in a custody case and she was arguing that the Father was an alcoholic and would abuse alcohol while the child was in his care. The evidence consisted primarily of the Mother's testimony that she observed the Father abuse alcohol each evening while they lived together. The Father contended that he has been actively engaged in all aspects of child rearing; never had any criminal infractions such as a DUI; and has stable employment and was recently promoted to management. The Court admonished the Father not to consume alcohol either preceding or during his visitation. After the court made it's ruling, the Mother inquired as to whether she needed to give the child to the Father if he showed up in his vehicle while intoxicated?
Certainly, if one parent is conducting him or herself in a manner that may negatively impact a child's welfare or is otherwise engaged in a pattern of behaviors not in the child's best interest(s), then the other parent's first priority is to protect the child from harm. Using the example above, if the Father arrives to pick up the child while intoxicated, then at that point, the Mother should call the police to file a report and have a sobriety test performed of the Father before permitting him to drive away with the child. A parent may need to make a parental decision to protect his/ her child but a court order cannot be unilaterally ignored. Therefore, the Mother would also need to immediately file a motion seeking emergency relief limiting the visitation (time sharing) between the Father and child.
Florida Law now provides for parenting plans and time sharing. Florida no longer designates one parent as the primary residential parent (custodian) and the other parent as the secondary residential parent with rights of visitation. The parties will be expected to discuss and agree upon the terms of a parenting plan in the "best interests" of their children, which may include a specific time sharing arrangement between both parents and their child(ren). If the parents cannot agree, then the Court will establish a time sharing arrangement after evaluating a variety of criteria.
The Court may consider recent alcohol and/or drug abuse as a factor in developing a parenting plan. On the other hand, if Parent "A" has unilaterally dictated time sharing and has denied Parent "B" time sharing despite "B" having historically been an active participant in their child's care, then "B" can present the Mother's behaviors in denying him/ her access as a factor to be considered.
The above is not intended as legal advice. Again, each case is unique and the development of an effective parenting plan and time sharing along with child support is dependent on the particulars of your case. If you are in need of legal advice, please feel free to contact my Office for a free, initial consultation. Please also feel free to respond or comment to this blog. I welcome your input.