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Can you force a parent to have visitation with his/her child?

A question was recently posed to me regarding a parent’s ability to force the other parent to have visitation with his or her child.

You generally cannot force the other parent to exercise his or her visitation if you have full custody of your child. Visitation is considered a “right”. Similar to other rights – such as voting – you have the ability to exercise your right but can’t be penalized for choosing not to exercise that right. Your right can be taken away from you only for good cause. In contrast, supporting your child is a responsibility. A responsibility – such as paying taxes – can be forced upon you if you choose not to honor that responsibility. The Court has the ability to force the Obligor to pay child support even if he or she doesn’t want to.

One caveat to this is if the parents have a shared parenting plan (Ohio’s version of joint custody). I have heard one judge say that she would find a parent in contempt for not exercising his time under a shared parenting plan. I have never personally pursued such a finding because from a practical standpoint it just doesn’t make sense. The more logical pursuit would be to ask the Court to modify the non-compliant parent’s parenting time and increase his/her child support because he/she is not exercising the time, putting more of the burden on the other parent.

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