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What happens if the court denies me child custody?

A custody battle can be one of the most heart-rending and stressful experiences a parent can go through. Despite putting your best effort forward, there is still a chance that the judge will award physical and legal custody to the other parent. This means you may have little say in the decisions that often come with parenting, and you may have limited time to spend with the child.

Because family courts more often prefer that both parents have an active role in their child’s life, it is possible that the judge will award you some form of visitation, even if your former partner receives full custody. However, it is always wise to understand the possible outcomes and the options you have for making the most of any time you have with your child.

Denied visitation

There are a few reasons why a judge may deny visitation altogether. For example, if you have had little or no contact with the child in recent months, you struggle with substance abuse or you have a history of domestic violence, the court may feel visitation with you is not in the best interests of the child. On the other hand, the court may agree to supervised visitation to allow you time with the child in the presence of someone else.

Additionally, a judge may decide that your failure to take advantage of past visitation opportunities is too painful for the child to risk by awarding you future visitation time. You may have to make a good case for how you intend to be more involved in the child’s life or ask the court what you can do to earn the restoration of your visitation rights in the future.

Maximizing visitation

Unfitness is only one reason why a judge may deny custody to a parent. If you are a positive influence in your child’s life, other factors that may work against you include the distance you live from the other parent’s home or the fact that the other parent has been providing most of the child’s caregiving up to this point.

In most cases, however, the courts strive to keep both parents in a child’s life. If the other parent receives custody, you can fight for as much visitation time as possible, including weekends, overnights during the week, vacations, holidays and the right of first refusal if the other parent needs childcare. Ideally, you and the other parent can work this out, but it may be in your best interests to have a strong legal ally.