Do I have the right to know what my child is doing while they are visiting their other parent?
The reality is that your ex or co-parent isn’t required to tell you anything about what he or she and the children do unless the court order or visitation agreement specifically requires it.
You and your co-parent are both grown adults who presumably love your children and are doing the best job you can to care and nurture them. If your ex’s actions are not violating the law or putting your children in physical, mental, or emotional danger while they are in his or her care, their visitation time is solely their own.
The court generally prefers both parents to participate in their children’s lives, and visitation is an essential time for parent-child bonding. If you do anything to interfere with a scheduled visitation time, the court will look on this negatively, and it could be used against you as a reason to change the custody or visitation schedule in your ex’s favor.
Setting Reasonable Co-Parenting Rules
When you are thinking about how to structure the terms of your custody or visitation agreements, it is important to set reasonable expectations; otherwise, the court likely will throw out your request.
Ideally, these concerns have already been addressed in your parenting plan.
For example, generally, it is in both parents' best interests to know where their children are at any given time in the event of an emergency and have a way to communicate with them while they are at their other parent’s, either by phone, text, skype, etc. If your ex wants to take the kids on an extended trip, especially out of state, it is reasonable to request that your ex give adequate notice about where he or she and the children will be traveling to and when.
However, it is probably not reasonable for your ex to alert you every time he or she leaves the house with the kids during visitation. Even for happily married couples, there are times when a spouse hops in the car with the kids to run some errands and doesn’t let the other parent know. If a parent is calling the other parent non-stop during their scheduled visitation time and demanding to know where the children are 24/7, it may be viewed by the court as abusive and controlling.
It is probably not reasonable for your ex to be prohibited from taking the kids over to his or her relative's house or even to a new significant other’s home no matter how much you may not get along. However, if you suspect the people your ex is interacting with are bad influences on your children or you are hearing concerning stories from your children about their time spent during visitation, there are some steps you can take.
How to Address Concerns
- First, try communicating with your ex about your concerns. You can’t always believe everything your children tell you.
- If you suspect physical or emotional abuse, you will need to have substantial evidence supporting your accusation, such as police reports, medical records, or testimony from people who have witnessed the abuse.
- If your child exhibits signs of abuse or trauma, take them to a therapist or mental health professional to undergo an evaluation. The therapist will review your child’s case and can present an expert opinion to support your claim.
Remember, it is seldom legal to deny your ex court-ordered visitation. Contact the proper authorities such as the police, social services, and your lawyer to make sure you are proceeding through appropriate channels.
One final issue that sometimes comes up regarding knowing where your kids are when they are with their other parent is a home address. Generally, both parents will share their home addresses, but there are instances when the court may not require it. For example, if there is a history of harassment or spousal abuse, the court may not require one parent to disclose their home address to the other. Instead may require the child to have some other means of communicating with their other parent during visitation.
Differences in personalities, behaviors, and parenting styles often are reasons why parents separate and divorce in the first place, but just because your ex raises your children in a way that you don’t approve of doesn’t mean it is wrong.
If you have serious concerns about what your children are doing while visiting their other parent or if the other parent is denying you phone calls or other communication with your child during visitation, it is crucial to document every incident that occurs and contact an attorney right away.