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Can I Lose Custody of My Kids if I Miss Too Many Visitations?

By Bob Matteucci

So, you and the parent of your child are settling into your new schedules and lifestyles. It is difficult, if not impossible, to predict how well the parenting time schedule will work out until you take it for a test drive. Unfortunately, once the judge signs the divorce decree, the test drive is over.

A parenting schedule that you thought would work out might not be practical after all. Your work schedule could change. You could get involved with a new romantic partner. At some point, you might wonder if you could lose custody of your kids if you miss too many visitations. A New Mexico family law attorney could answer this and other questions you have about custody and visitation.

How Missing Visitations Can Affect Child Support

Part of the calculation of child support involves how many nights the child stays in each parent’s household. It costs money to feed and take care of children. If your child support assumed that your kids would be staying overnight at your place 15 nights per month, the amount of your child support was likely reduced accordingly.

If you cancel too many overnights, the other parent could file a motion to modify seeking a recalculation of the child support. The judge will have to decide if the situation has gone on long enough to justify ordering you to pay more support.

The Impact of Missed Visits on Future Modifications

Let’s say that a few years down the road, you have remarried and established a stable household. You would like to spend more time with your children, perhaps even have them come to live with you. If you missed a high number of visits since the divorce and the mother of the children at issue kept reliable records as evidence of that fact, it will be a challenge for you to get a judge to award you more visitation time when you haven’t exercised the amount you already have. 

Also, the mother of the children at issue could succeed on a motion to change the custody arrangements if you missed too many visits. For example, if the original divorce decree granted equal physical custody to you and the other parent, missing an excessive number of visits could persuade the judge to take away the equal custody schedule, making the other parent the primary custodial parent and awarding you less visitation.

Missing Visitations Could Make It Easier for the Other Parent to Relocate

If you go for long stretches of time without seeing your children and miss visitations regularly, you could face unexpected consequences down the road. For example, the other parent could be allowed to move out of state with the children. 

One reason that judges hesitate to give permission to a parent to relocate with the children is to try to preserve the child’s relationship with the other parent. If you have very little involvement in your child’s life, the judge might be inclined to grant the other parent’s motion to relocate. 

What to Do if You Have to Miss a Visit

Sometimes, missing visitation is outside of your control. Work schedules can interfere, as can education or military service. Whenever you have to miss a scheduled visit, you should contact the other parent as soon as possible. 

Approach the situation as you would if you had to cancel a business appointment. Apologize for the change in schedule. Acknowledge the inconvenience to the other parent for disrupting their plans. Offer to make alternate arrangements or pay for childcare for the missed visit. 

If the missed visits become a frequent occurrence, you will want to talk with a New Mexico family law attorney about modifying the schedule and child support amicably. Contact Bob Matteucci today if you require legal assistance.

About the Author
Bob Matteucci is a board certified family law specialist, with a statewide practice in the area of divorce and family law.