Arkansas Advocates for Parental Equality

The Protection of Noncustodial Parents' Visitation

Noncustodial parents have very few rights and even fewer protections for those rights. The most important right for any parent is the right to see his or her child. Many of us know people who have been or are being denied visitation of their child despite it being in their custody order. Although this is the most severe type of parental alienation, it is viewed as a civil matter, meaning the noncustodial parent has to hire his or her own attorney and pursue the issue at his or her own expense. The initial expense, or retainer, for a family attorney in Arkansas is usually over $1000. These attorneys will then charge rates exceeding $200/hr. Between the consultation, legal motions, trial preparation, and court hearing, the final cost is typically several thousand dollars. The wait time for a hearing is a minimum of months, but can easily be drawn out over a year through legal maneuvering. By the time it is heard in court, the issue may be met with apathy by your judge since it concerns events that took place well in the past. The primary custodian should expect little more than a slap on the wrist, especially if he or she put on good behavior in the time leading up to the hearing. As a result, the cycle starts again right after court with more denial of visitation. The hard truth is that protection of noncustodial parents' rights is marginal at best and only exists for those who can afford it. 

The state is fully capable of devoting resources to matters of family law - it has just chosen not to when it comes to visitation. A prime example is that of child support. In contrast to visitation, multiple systems are in place to enforce child support payment. The taxpayer-funded Office of Child Support Enforcement (OCSE), a division of the DFA, exists to ensure that child support is paid, including providing attorneys and representation in court. Penalties for nonpayment include driver's license suspension, wage garnishment, and even jail time. The OCSE website includes an FAQ section with the question "I'm a noncustodial parent. Do I have to pay child support if the custodial parent won't let me see my child?" Their response is the following:

"Both parents must comply with the order of the court; however, OCSE is only authorized to address issues related to the enforcement of the financial and medical support portions of the order. OCSE is not authorized to address custody and visitation issues. These issues must be addressed through a private attorney of the court."

Arkansas Advocates for Parental Equality supports the creation of a Noncustodial Parents' Visitation Rights Bill to protect and enforce parental rights. In the process, this will also help protect our children from parental alienation. A similar bill was passed in 2014 by an overwhelming majority in our neighboring state of Oklahoma. Similar to that bill, we support one in Arkansas to include:

Parental Alienation