What Are Step-Up Rights in Child Custody?

by Kimberly Turtenwald

Child custody cases are all about what is best for the children involved. The court order that is established is generally meant to last until the child is 18 years old. However, especially when your children are young when you go through a custody hearing or your child is unfamiliar with his other parent, a custody arrangement may be better if it is created as a step-up plan.

What Is It?

Step-up visitation allows a child to become more familiar with a parent she does not know or allows an increase in visitation as she gets older. A court often uses this type of plan with a young child, especially an infant, when one parent must meet specific guidelines before getting more visitation or when the parents were not married and the child has not spent much time with the other parent. This type of plan reduces the time and money spent on order modifications in the future.

First Steps

The early stages of step-up visitation rights are dictated by the age of the child and the circumstances behind this type of visitation. If the child is an infant or very young child, the non-custodial parent gets several shorter periods of visitation during the week, especially if the custodial parent is the mother and she is breastfeeding the child. If the child is older or there has been abuse involved, the court may begin with supervised visitation to allow the child to get to know his other parent without being left alone with that parent.

Moving Up

Once the time period that is assigned to the early stages is completed, the next stage then begins. This time period may be directly related to the age of the child or it may be connected to actions taken by the non-custodial parent. As long as the appropriate amount of time has passed or the appropriate actions have been taken, the custodial parent has no right to deny the next stage of visitation to the non-custodial parent.

Failure to Comply

A court does not rule for a step-up visitation plan unless there is a good reason for it. However, some parents who are placed into this type of plan do not understand that the court sees this as the best thing for the child and refuse to accept this plan. Or the custodial parent may think that the visitation plan is not appropriate. If either parent decides that they do not want to follow the step-up visitation plan, the parent must petition the court to change the visitation plan. Until the court rules otherwise, it is the right of the non-custodial parent to have access to children based on the step-up plan.

About the Author

Kimberly Turtenwald began writing professionally in 2000. She has written content for various websites, including Lights 2 You, Online Consultation, Corpus Personal Injury and more. Turtenwald studied editing and publishing at Wisconsin Lutheran College.

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