How to discontinue a father's visitation rights

Written by meg campbell
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How to discontinue a father's visitation rights
Discontinuing a father's visitation rights must be done through a court of law (Legal Law Justice image by Stacey Alexander from

Every state has different child custody and visitation laws, but some of the most basic points are the same. Joint custody implies both parents make decisions on behalf of their child, and must discuss them with one another. Primary custody is often given to one parent---the custodial parent---and the other parent is the non-custodial parent. Usually, the non-custodial parent's time with his child comes in the form of visitation. If the custodial parent would like to discontinue these visitation rights, she must have specific, documented reasons, and file a motion through family court.

Skill level:
Moderately Challenging


  1. 1

    Seek an attorney's advice. Give your reasons for wanting to discontinue the visitation rights of the child's father. Revoking visitation rights is rarely ordered by a court of law. Some reasons a court will not discontinue rights include failure to pay child support or not adhering to a court-ordered visitation schedule. Some reasons a court may consider temporarily or permanently revoking a father's rights include abusive behaviour, drug or alcohol abuse, child neglect, placing the child in perilous situations and threatening to kidnap the child.

  2. 2

    Gather concrete and admissible evidence to support your claim. Depending on the situation, this can mean filing a police report, taking photographs, or talking to someone at Child Protective Services about your concerns. Don't withhold a father's visitation while attempting to discontinue them legally, unless you feel your child is in immediate danger. For example, if the child's father comes to pick her up and has been drinking, or your child has told you that he's abusive or violent, you can temporarily withhold visitation rights, while at the same time file a motion with the court. The court has an expectation that the custodial parent will protect the child, even if it's from the non-custodial parent.

  3. 3

    File a formal motion with the court to discontinue visitation rights. Present your reasons for wanting to discontinue visitation rights. If you've withheld visitation at any point, you must demonstrate cause to the court so as not to be held in contempt of the standing visitation order. If the father has been abusive, you must present proof (photographs, police and hospital reports) and be prepared to have your child called in to testify. If he is abusing illicit drugs, the court will likely order regular drug testing. Whatever the cause, without proof and/or the child's testimony, the court has little reason to alter standing visitation rights.

Tips and warnings

  • Prepare for the fact that judges rarely fully discontinue a parent's visitation rights. According to Jacqueline D. Stanley, attorney at law and author of "Unmarried Parents' Rights," even parents who abuse their children are often still granted supervised visitation rights. She cites another example of a mother who threatened to kidnap her child and then did; when the mother was caught four years later, the father gained full custody of the child. However, the mother was still awarded supervised visitation rights. Aside from supervised visitation, courts also may order a parent to attend a substance rehabilitation facility, undergo routine drug testing, or attend counselling before terminating all legal visitation rights. Judges usually prefer giving a father a chance to change before discontinuing his rights altogether.

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