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Visitation rights: Enforcement

Attachment tolerance means the ability of a parent to recognize that it is important for the children to maintain contact and a stable relationship with the other parent. Especially in conflict-intensive parental relationships, it is sometimes difficult to separate the parental level from the level where one may have been personally offended by the other. To avoid conflicts, it is advisable to make specific arrangements about the visitation rights. This means making a precise plan of who looks after the children and when, and also implementing this plan. But what if these agreements are not uphold by one parent?


What is the best way to enforce visitation rights with the children in court?

Even if it is often not known: Parents do not only have to allow contact between the children and the other parent. They must even encourage the contact and refrain from anything that could disturb the parent-child relationship, e.g. negative influences of the child against the other. If one parent actively tries to prevent contact with the other parent (without reason) and to disrupt the relationship between the child and the other parent, this can have serious consequences. However, for contact to be enforced, it must be a court certified visitation arrangement. For example, a court order or a court settlement. If two parents have only agreed among themselves, such an agreement cannot be enforced.

If there is such a court contact arrangement about the visitation rights and if one parent repeatedly violates it, for example by constantly cancelling visits without reason or by picking up or returning the children late, an application for compulsory enforcement of contact can be filed with the competent district court. If the requirements are met, the court can order appropriate means to motivate the parent to comply with the visitation schedule in place. In most cases fines/penalties are imposed. The term “penalty” is misleading in this context. It is not about punishing someone. Rather, it is intended to motivate the parent who violates the contact arrangement to comply with it in the future. If such measures do not lead to success and if one parent does prevent contact, for example, the withdrawal of custody of this parent can also be discussed.


How high are the fines?

Often, rather small fines are imposed at the beginning for violations of visitation rights. However, in a recent decision (OGH 21.10.2021, 3 Ob 160/21g), the Supreme Court stated that monetary sanctions for the enforcement of contact arrangements must be severe in order to serve their purpose.


visitation rights: Wishes of the child

If there is a dispute about contact, the wishes of the child must also be taken into account in the decision. However, it must also be taken into account that sometimes children have been severly influenced by one parent. If the child is 14 years old, contact can no longer be established against his/her will.

In practice, such situations are very difficult and also go hand in hand with massive insecurities for the children concerned.


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