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What hoops must be jumped through to have child visitation enforced after years of being MIA and accruing a serious felony?

Roanoke, VA |

I have been out of my son's life since he was four years old; he is now 11. To my knowledge, my visitation is still technically enforced. No attempts to contact the mother have been successful. Four years ago I was charged and later convicted of a Class 5 violent felony against my ex--not my son's mother--and also had serious arrests during that relationship. I did jail time--almost two years. I voluntarily entered a residential substance abuse program and have had a wonderful and successful recovery from alcoholism--over three years sober. I have been employed since my release, almost two years ago, have been paying child support and working on my arrears. Stable residence. Full time student. I was NEVER abusive toward my son, period, and such has never been suggested.

Attorney Answers 1

Posted

When you say "no attempts to contact the mother have been successful", do you mean that she is just refusing to pick-up the phone/return your messages/reply to your emails or do you mean that you have been unable to confirm her location/contact information? If it is the latter (you aren't 100% sure how to contact her), then you may want to focus on getting someone to track her down for you first -- a P.I. or person locator service, for example. As a practical matter, it does you no good to get a court order ordering the enforcement of a court order if she can't be found to enforce it on.

If and when you know where she and the child reside (you will need this information to serve her with anything, anyway), then I would suggest as your next step that you have an attorney assist you in communicating with this person. While she may not return your calls, she is far more likely to respond to a letter from an attorney. If the attorney can express to her that you are very much interested in working with the mother to insure that your re-introduction into the child's life is done with appropriate amount of gradual, safe, structured visits as may be needed (rather than just simply attempting to assert some visitation schedule from 7 or more years ago), then perhaps she would be willing to listen and consider negotiating a more appropriate current arrangement without the need for judicial intervention.

Given your record and the lack of contact with the child, a negotiated work-out with the other parent would probably be your best option. If that does not work, then you will need to go back to court and either petition for enforcement of the current order or for a modification of custody/visitation.

This response does not create an attorney-client relationship and is intended for general information purposes only.

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5 comments

Asker

Posted

Thank you for your help. I know where she is or was, she just won't return letters and her number was changed years ago. I've tried contacting through her family as well, but no luck. As you noted "given my record" negotiating with her would be best. Do you feel that, given my record and the time between last contact, that a judge would deny my request to be in my son's life? Doing basic internet research, I've read that even in cases much worse than mine, judges tend to believe it is in the best interest of the child to know the father; however, most all of that which I read came from legal advice relating to other states. Can you offer any insight to this? If I try to get an attorney, would these processes be very costly?

Asker

Posted

I had also been considering to petition her for mediation. That's how we did the custody/visitation originally, though it was later done through a court when we changed it.

Jennifer E Mandell

Jennifer E Mandell

Posted

Va. Code Section 20-124.2(B) provides in relevant part as follows: "In determining custody, the court shall give primary consideration to the best interests of the child. The court shall assure minor children of frequent and continuing contact with both parents, when appropriate, and encourage parents to share in the responsibilities of rearing their children...." So, except in cases where domestic or sexual assault has been committed by the parent against the child, the legal presumption in VA favors a relationship with both parents.

Asker

Posted

Thank you very much. I was becoming discouraged. I want what is best for my son. I became estranged because I knew my lifestyle was fast becoming unsuitable for a child; I would not look into visitation unless I was certain about my recovery and my own stability. Even in this respect, I still wonder if it is best just in regards to the potential emotional stress he may experience having to get to know me in an awkward way. At the same time, I do not want him to grow into manhood thinking his father does not love him nor care to be in his life, which is what his mother might tell him. I was also very concerned that my felony being against an ex, therefore a "family member", would be a disqualification. I will look into attorneys in the area. Thank you again.

Jennifer E Mandell

Jennifer E Mandell

Posted

You are very welcome! And definitely do not be discouraged! In my experience, any parent who is honest and humble and willing to bend over backwards to ensure that the best interests of their child are served above all (and makes that abundantly clear to the court by both what they say and what they do) will be given every chance possible.

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