Unfortunately there are many children who have parents that are incarcerated. If your child’s other parent should be sent to jail, you may wonder how this will affect your parenting time order. Your order remains in effect until it is modified by the court. Most parents seek to modify the order once the other parent is incarcerated. It is simply not possible to continue to follow an order that provided overnight visits or extended time. And it is may not be in the child’s best interest to continue to have contact or as much contact with the parent who is in jail.
If you seek to modify your custody order because the other parent is in jail, you will need to show the court that it is in your child’s best interest to change the order. If the other parent is a violent offender, committed a crime against a family member, is serving a life sentence, is held far away, or has no visiting hours, no contact may be appropriate. Visitation with very young children is sometimes considered inappropriate as well. In some cases though the court will believe it is important for the child to have some contact with the other parent, so that a relationship is maintained. Often a court leaves the frequency of visitation up to the custodial parent, recognizing that it can be challenging to get to visiting hours.
If you will be taking your child to prison visitation, it is important to prepare him in advance. Be honest about why the other parent is there, but do not share upsetting details of the crime. Describe what the visit will be like and how the other parent may look (in a prison jumpsuit, behind glass, or in a special visitation room). It can be helpful to encourage your child to make drawings to work through his feelings and for you to be available to answer the questions that will come up.
The Sampair Group provides compassionate legal advice in divorce and family law cases in Maricopa County. Call us today so that we can begin helping you.