Parent’s Discretion Over Parenting Time


Do the terms of your child’s custody order grant the child’s other parent the discretion to determine your parenting time? Are you allowed to visit with your child only when the other parent agrees? In North Carolina, an order granting you parenting time only at the other parent’s discretion may only be upheld if the court makes a written finding that you are an unfit parent or that visitation is not in the best interest of your child.

Does your child’s custody order provide language such as “Defendant may have parenting time with the minor child only as both parents agree in writing,” or “Father may exercise visitation with the minor child at such time and place as Mother permits”? If so, you may want an attorney to review your child’s custody order to determine whether you should ask the court to amend the order to ensure specific times, locations and conditions for your parenting time with your child.

North Carolina courts have held that usually parents involved in child custody disputes have been unable to come to satisfactory agreements together regarding their child’s custody and visitation time. Therefore, it is the court’s job to provide the parties with defined parenting time because the parties have demonstrated their inability to follow a parenting arrangement without the court’s involvement. Thus, if a court does not find that either parent, through his or her own conduct, has demonstrated that he or she is unfit to parent the child or that it is not in the best interest of the child for the parent to have parenting time, then it is the court’s responsibility to safeguard the parent’s right to parent the child. A court may safeguard this right of the parent through a provision defining and establishing the time, place and conditions under which parenting time should be exercised by both parents.

You may be experiencing excitement over weekend plans with your child only to be told by the other parent that these plans are cancelled. Or you may be begging for time with your child but the other parent always has an excuse to deny this parenting time. Orders granting the other parent sole discretion over your time with your child are not upheld unless the court has found you are an unfit parent or it is not in the best interest of your child to spend time with you. Regardless of whether you entered into your child’s current custody order by consent or whether a judge provided terms allowing the other parent the discretion to determine your parenting time with your child, you should speak with an attorney at Miller Cushing Holladay, PLLC to decide whether you should ask the court to grant you defined time with your child so you are no longer resigned to the other’s parent’s decisions regarding your parenting time.