What Happens if the Non-Custodial Parent Misses Visitation?

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By Divorce & Finance

Key Takeaways

  • Visitation Rights: Visitation refers to the scheduled time non-custodial parents spend with their children, essential for everyone’s well-being.
  • Custodial vs. Non-Custodial: Post-divorce, one parent gets primary custody, and the other, usually granted visitation rights, is encouraged to visit frequently.
  • Setting Schedule: Parents draft a visitation agreement, subject to judge approval. Mediation is used in case of disagreements.
  • Visitation Issues: Non-custodial parents may miss or be late for visits, impacting the child and custodial parent. Boundaries, documentation, and mediation are solutions.
  • Consequences for Missing Visits: Persistent absence can lead to court action, with consequences ranging from fines to revised custody agreements.
  • Making Up Missed Visits: Judges may allow makeup visits, considering the child’s best interests and reasons for absence.
  • Children Refusing Visits: If children refuse visits, parents should explore the reasons, reassure them, and communicate to find solutions.
  • Co-Parenting Importance: Both parents should maintain a good relationship and work in the child’s best interests.
  • Legal Solutions and Documentation: Persistent issues may necessitate legal action, supported by thorough documentation.
  • Flexibility: Parents should be flexible, accommodating, and considerate of the child’s best interests and unexpected circumstances.

Custodial parent arguing with non custodial parent because missing visitaition

Most parents would do anything to exercise their right to visit and see their children as often as possible. However, there are times when a non-custodial parent misses visitation, either accidentally or on purpose.

Continue reading to find out what happens if a non-custodial parent misses visitation and other information relevant to this situation such as a general overview of visitation rights, the consequences of missing them, and the process involved in dealing with missed visitations.

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What Is Visitation?

Visitations, also known as parenting time, are the schedules that are assigned to the non-custodial parent with regards to when and how long they can have their children with them. These visitations are essential for the well-being of everyone involved in a child custody case.

On one hand, children benefit from knowing that they will see both of their parents. It gives them a sense of security for following a particular routine. In addition, children who grow up with both parents tend to have higher self-esteem and become confident teens and adults.

On the other hand, a parenting plan allows the parents to work, have personal time, and handle personal affairs without their children. While a judge is unlikely to force a parent to spend time with their child, the court expects both parents to comply with this parenting plan.

Custodial vs. Non-custodial Parents

After a divorce, the court divides the custody of the child between the two parents. As the name implies, the custodial parent is the spouse who takes primary custody of the child. The court expects the mother or father to take care of the child at all times except during visitation of the other parent. The court usually grants visitation rights to the non-custodial parent.

The non-custodial parent picks up the child at the previously fixed visitation time and place. The court encourages frequent visitations as long as it doesn’t interfere with the child’s school schedule, but if parents are to reside in locations that are far from each other, the judge will grant more freedom to the non-residential parent during holidays and vacations.

How Is the Visitation Schedule Set?

In most states, the law requires divorcing parents to discuss and draft an agreement that outlines visitation plans for their children.

If parents are in a strong disagreement, they may need the assistance of a third-party mediator to help them negotiate the terms of the visitation and reach a mutually beneficial agreement in a professional manner.

Child visitation plans must be approved by a judge since they are required to make sure that it contains a reasonable visitation schedule in the child’s best interests while making it easy for the co-parent to exercise their visitation rights.

When the Non-custodial Parent Is Perpetually Late for Visitation

Some parents don’t exercise parental visitation rights unless it is convenient for them and fits in their schedules. When a residential parent finds themselves often rescheduling the visitation plan and wasting hours waiting for the other parent to show up, they should speak up about it. The non-residential parent cannot always come up with excuses and persistently disregard their child’s and ex-spouse’s schedule.

If the non-custodial parent is late for visitations, you can inform them that from now on, you can no longer tolerate delay that is affecting your child’s daily life. You can give your ex-spouse a window of time to be late, after which you, as the non-custodial parent, will forfeit that visitation slot. For this to work, you should highlight that there will be no make-ups or replacement slots to be given.

If the non-custodial parent feels offended or wants to take it to court, you don’t have to worry. Make sure you are prepared to present a record of the regular late visitations up to that point and accurately defend your perspective and rationale for the modified rule you implemented.

What Happens if the Non-custodial Parent Misses Visitation

Lawyer explains the non custodial parent the rules if he misses visitationThe custodial parent will find themselves lost in the case of a non-custodial parent not visiting the child. Should they continue to get the child ready, only for the child to be disappointed when the other parent does not show up? Can the custodial parent ignore the visitation rights of his divorcee?

Before the last resort of returning to court, it might be better for the custodial parent to try to fix the problem by doing one of the following:

  • Adopt a firmer tone: This is essential so that the ex-spouse understands that you are not a pushover and you will no longer tolerate this kind of delay. You can demand the non-custodial parent a twenty-four-hour notice to prepare the child for their visitation. That way, you regain control of the child’s life and limit his or her disappointment.
  • Have your attorney send a letter to your ex: This is sometimes all it takes to get your ex to follow the custodial schedule. The attorney can write up a strong note that notifies the other parent that they will suffer severe consequences if they don’t obey the court orders. Non-custodial parent visitation is not a slight matter, and your ex-spouse must understand this clearly.
  • Ask for mediation services from the Family Services Office: If you set the schedule amicably but you cannot seem to be able to enforce it, contact the court that set your child custody orders and see whether they provide mediation services. This may help you and your ex resolve your problem without having to go to court.
  • Document everything: Despite what you decide to do when the non-custodial parent is not exercising visitation rights, you should always take down notes of whatever is happening. Adapting a computer-based software can help you, as a custodial parent, keep track of the non-custodial parent’s missed dates and present them to the court when needed. Include in your notes everything from your child’s school attendance records to your attempts to resolve the situation with your ex. This information will do wonders to help you if you need to take legal action.

Court Action for Violating Visitation

If the non-custodial parent refuses to see the child after trying everything, the next best thing for the custodial parent to do is to take the case to court.

The consequences of a parent not showing up for visitation mainly vary depending on the severity of the violation, how many times the parent has skipped visitation, and the child’s best interests. A judge will rarely revoke the non-custodial parent’s right to visit. However, there are consequences for violating the visitation schedule.

The judge will be the one deciding on these consequences, and some of the measures a judge can take when a parent misses visitations are:

  • Requiring the parent to pay for and attend parenting classes
  • Requiring the culpable parent to pay for and attend family counseling
  • Revising the custody agreement and/or limiting the parent’s access to the child
  • Enforcing a monetary fee to be paid to the custodial parent each time the parent is late or absent for scheduled visitations
  • Requiring the parents to attend mediation to resolve issues at the expense of the violating party

Making Up Missed Visits

The judge’s primary concern is the child’s well-being. Thus, he decides based on the child’s best interests. If a non-custodial parent cancels visitation and wishes to make up those visits, the judge may authorize it.

Nevertheless, the judge may also deny the request depending on the reasons why the non-residential parent missed the visitation in the first place.

If you are the custodial parent and your ex-spouse requests makeup parenting time, always keep an open mind and consider what is best for your child and the co-parent. Remember that sometimes, things come up unexpectedly and life gets in the way.

What Happens if Children Refuse Visitations

In some cases, both the custodial and non-custodial parents are willing to abide by the visitation schedule; however, the child refuses to do so. Since the court sets the schedule to meet the child’s best interests, no one can force them to visit their parents.

Nonetheless, the custodial parent should still follow legal ramifications in cooperating with the child’s refusal.

Every time children refuse to visit a non-custodial parent, as a custodial parent, you should:

  • Discuss with them why they do not want to participate in the visit (if it is an issue of safety, refer to your attorney for advice).
  • Reassure your children that both parents love them and that you want them to spend time with their other parent.
  • Explain the concept of visitation and why it’s crucial to spend time with both parents.
  • As a last resort, talk with the other parent about allowing the child to break or reduce the length of their visits.


  • Child custody and visitation documentVisitations are essential for the well-being of everyone involved in a child custody case.
  • Child visitation plans must be approved by a judge, and they usually grant visitation rights to the non-custodial parent.
  • Non-residential parents should exercise their visits at the scheduled time.
  • If the current schedule is no longer working for one of the parents, an attorney can help modify it.
  • When a custodial parent is dealing with a non-custodial parent constantly late for visitation or missing visitation, there are several measures they can take, including:
    – Setting limits by using a firm tone.
    – Sending a letter through an attorney
    – Using a mediator
    – Documenting the missed or late visitations
    – Returning to the court.
  • If the non-custodial parent refuses to see the child after trying everything, the custodial parent should take the case to court.
  • For the right reasons, the court can allow the non-custodial parent to make up for missed visitations.
  • There are several ways to deal with children who refuse to visit their non-custodial parents; however, it is vital to communicate with them and understand the reasons behind their decision. If it is a matter of safety, the custodial parent should contact their lawyer.
  • Although the court rarely revokes a non-custodial parent’s right to visitation, continuous violations of visitations can have serious consequences.

Parents should never forget that their children will always tie them together in one way or another, so both parents should try to maintain a decent relationship for the sake of their kids. As long as it is not a constant issue, they should do everything they can to work together in the child’s best interests.


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Redder, G. (2021, December). Can I keep my child if my ex is late to pick them up? [Blog post]. George Redder.

Puvvada Law. (n.d.). Long distance visitation. Puvvada Law.

Cornwell Law. (n.d.). Contempt of court in Ohio: Custody, shared parenting, and visitation cases – Part 2. Cornwell Law.

Keith Family Law. (n.d.). Can parents keep children past parenting time? [Blog post]. Keith Family Law.

Lynch & Owens. (2020, June). How does child custody change when a parent gets incarcerated? [Blog post]. Lynch & Owens.

Dallas Family Law Attorney. (n.d.). The dos and don’ts of summer child custody. Dallas Family Law Attorney.

Forbes Advisor. (n.d.). When to deny visitation to a non-custodial parent. Forbes Advisor.

Baskin, R.M. (n.d.). Ventura child visitation attorney. Robert M. Baskin.

Bednarz, J. (2017, August). What if a visitation court order is disobeyed in Arizona? [Blog post]. John Bednarz P.C..

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