Missing one visitation without scheduling the next one is not abandonment. When it comes to custody and visitation, “abandonment” does not have an exact definition in North Carolina. However, voluntarily failing to visit your child for 6 months is considered abandonment in an action to terminate parental rights.
If you are dealing with a parent who routinely ignores the schedule, then your first step is to ask the other parent to keep to the schedule. The request needs to be polite and should be in writing. You should keep a calendar documenting whether scheduled visitations actually happen. If you have a written custody order or agreement, contact an attorney about enforcing it. You may also talk to an attorney about asking the court to modify the schedule.
Whether you are the custodial parent or the visiting parent, use common sense and be courteous. If you have to cancel a visitation, give the other parent as much notice as possible. Documenting your communication is important. Documentation can help you avoid arguments about whether or not one of you told the other about a schedule change. So, if you give notice by telephone, it is a good idea to follow up with an email. If you communicate by text message, take a screen shot of the text – or email the text to an email address – so you will have a copy of it even if you lose your phone. When you cancel, (or as soon as possible thereafter), you should schedule the next visitation, and ask for (or offer) make-up time. If your ex doesn’t agree to make-up time, be gracious and polite about it. Unless you have a written agreement or court order that says otherwise, your ex does not have to change their schedule just because you had to cancel. Be aware that your cancellation has already forced your ex to change their plans. Emergencies happen, but a pattern of ignoring the schedule is upsetting to children.
If your existing visitation schedule is not working, you should contact a family law attorney to see what you can do to fix it. Averett Family Law handles custody cases in Pittsboro, Siler City, Chapel Hill, Carrboro, Hillsborough, Chatham County, Orange County, Wake County, Durham County and surrounding areas. Call us today at (919) 903-9442 or email us to schedule an appointment. We are here to help you.