Can I Deny Visitation If My Kids Don’t Have a Bed?

Updated on March 29, 2019
J.L. asks from New Orleans, LA
20 answers

I currently have sole custody (physical/legal) of my three children ages 10, 8, and 6. My ex has “reasonable” visitation but nothing set in stone by a judge. My ex recently moved closer to us, maybe an hour away, and he’s been wanting to see the kids more, which is fine. When he came to pick the kids up he expressed to the kids that they had their own beds in one bedroom, a three stacked bunk bed, but when they came back I found out they were sleeping on a couch and that his home was pretty much empty. I honestly don’t want my kids staying overnights if they don’t have a place to lay their heads but he has accused me of parental alienation and I don’t want to cross that boundary? What can I do? Should I just let him parent as he sees fit or actually fight this.

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C.T.

answers from Santa Fe on

Eh...they will be ok. Send them with sleeping bags and pillows. Let them get time with their Dad if he is a nice person. That is what I would do.

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J.B.

answers from Boston on

ETA: to those questioning the lack of specificity around parenting time, in my very recent divorce experience, "reasonable" visitation language is actually pretty common in agreements where one parent has primary custody and the parents came to a joint agreement without a trial, which is how most divorces go. My agreement is similarly vague because it doesn't make sense for us to set something in stone when the kids' schedules change dramatically every few months due to sports, etc., my kids are older, and the default assumption is that they sleep at my house. Parenting time language is moving away from strict schedules like "every Wednesday for dinner from 6-8 and every weekend from 5 on Friday to 3 on Sunday" to broader language that reflects the reality of most families. Parents can opt for specific days/times if needed (and this is more important in shared custody situation) but leaving vague language there isn't unusual or something that needs to be corrected unless it's a problem.

Original:
I'd run this by your attorney as states and judges can vary but will share my thoughts.

My divorce agreement specifies that overnight visits will be suspended if the kids don't have a bedroom with beds at his place because for the first year that we were separated, he had them sleeping on an air mattress or the couch (so their visits were few and far between). If you can have a civilized conversation, ask him (in writing, use email) by when he expects to have the place set up with furniture, including beds, and offer to set up something where he can have them for long days during that time while he's getting set up but not overnights (inconvenient for you if you have to help with transportation during that time) and then when his furnishings are complete, you can move towards overnights again.

If you have this in writing, it would head off any accusations of parental alienation. Part of overnight parenting is the expectation that the parent has appropriate accommodations for the children. A couch doesn't fit the bill long-term and he needs to commit to investing in furniture for his children if he wants them to spend overnights. That is not an unreasonable expectation.

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D.B.

answers from Boston on

Talk to whoever handled your visitation agreement about what's there, not there, and generally assumed in your state.

It's great that you are open to visitation. I can see your ex wanting them in his home rather than being the "party dad" who has to spend his whole paycheck on entertaining kids on a weekend, which can be a budget-buster and set up expectations that Dad is not a real parent but just an entertainment coordinator. If he just moved and has furniture on order, I'd cut him some slack - kids that age don't need a crib and they can camp out once or twice. And maybe he said "you'll have bunk beds" rather than "the beds are there now." Did you hear him say it, or did the kids relay what they thought he said? Did he lay out a ton of money to pay first, last and security for an apartment to be closer to his kids? Does he need a month or two to get furniture? That makes a difference to me. Maybe someone can buy or borrow a couple of air mattresses in the time being? Kids often like those. Heck, I went to visit family for a wedding and stayed on a mattress like that, and it was decent even for someone my age.

What concerns me is that a) he lied to the kids and b) his immediate reaction was (apparently) anger and accusations of "parental alienation" aimed at you. Them's fightin' words. Those are red flags. Big ones. I'd be having a serious conversation right now with your legal representative. You can always go back and file a modification of the agreement based on new circumstances. That can be handled positively with your ex, along the lines of "Now that you're closer and the kids are older, we can write up some adjustments so we both know what's expected and can make appropriate plans." Talk to the court or the lawyer asap.

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N.K.

answers from Miami on

They slept on a couch inside a home, they did not sleep on the dirt outdoors in the rain around wolves. In other words, they were safe and had a soft, dry place to sleep on. Ideally, he would have beds for the kids, but he just moved, so it's understandable. Most furniture places will take 1-2 weeks or longer to deliver furniture. Why don't you propose to buy air mattresses for the kids if you are so concerned with them sleeping on a couch? I have slept on couches at hotels or friends' homes and survived. Not a big deal, especially considering this is most likely temporary. Learn to pick your battles. Ask him about the beds and when they will be set up, and that you just want to make sure the kids have a safe, comfortable place to sleep on, not that you intend on keeping them away from him and that his assumption that you want to alienate them is quite a leap and obviously a misunderstanding.

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C.C.

answers from New York on

When the judge granted you full custody (if you truly have full custody then at least that part was "set in stone by a judge"), the judge must have addressed the topic of visitation, so - without other detailed information from you - I am guessing that the judge intended for your ex to have no visitation at all.

(You can edit your post to explain if there was truly a judge who granted you full custody but then just "forgot" or "refused" to mention anything about what the children's father should or should not do...I cannot imagine any judge not stating what was expected of EACH parent when making a custody determination.)

If the judge intended NO visitation, then you are likely violating a court order by allowing it, and the questionable sleeping arrangements don't make that situation better.

If you really want visitation to happen, you should go back to the judge to get the terms of the visitation "set in stone". Although there are limits to what a judge will order in specifics (sleeping on a couch that is large enough for all three children to sleep on might sound fine to the judge), the judge can help to get everyone onto the same page in terms of general expectations.

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D.D.

answers from Boston on

I think the biggest issue here is that he lied. He said he had beds and he didn't. That's where I would start the next conversation. Were the kids bothered by a lack of a bed? If they were suggest he pick up air mattresses before their next visit and let him know that this needs to be resolved before they visit again BUT ONLY IF IT BOTHERED THE KIDS. If it didn't bother them then let him know you are unhappy that he lied about having beds for the kids and he needs to be honest about his situation in the future.

My grandkids use to sleep over all the time when they were wee ones. I had beds for them but my house is pretty big so I use to have air mattresses in my room for them.It was never a problem.

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S.T.

answers from Washington DC on

why on earth is there nothing 'set in stone by a judge'?

i actually think there are way worse things than sleeping on a couch, or even a sleeping bag. so that wouldn't be the hill i'd choose to die on.

but if he went to the trouble of lying about it, that's certainly concerning.

you don't actually get to deny visitation, at least if the visitation has clearly defined parameters, which it should.

protect your children by getting it set in stone by a judge, pronto.

khairete
S.

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G.♣.

answers from Springfield on

Sleepovers, slumber parties, camping trips, Christmas at Grandma's house ... these were all times (growing up) that we used to sleep in sleeping bags on the living room floor. Your children did have a place to lay their heads. The couch is a perfectly acceptable place to sleep when you're only there for a night or two.

Are you really all that upset that your kids slept on a couch? That doesn't seem at all like a thing to get upset about. It seems like you might be looking for a reason to not let them stay with their dad.

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M.P.

answers from Portland on

Does the court order say he has the right to visit but does not include a schedule? Is that what you mean "it's not set in stone?" If the order says he has the right to see his children, that part is "set in stone." You will need to go to court to change that. The court has said he has visitation rights because time and studies have shown that it's best for the children to have a relationship with both parents.

About the sparsely furnished apartment. How long has he lived there? Does he have an income that would allow him to buy furniture? Consider it's reasonable to not have furniture. Having furniture including beds is not a legal requirement for visitation. Sleeping on the couch is acceptable. Have you never slept on the couch? If he has visitation rights in a court order, not having beds will not vacate the order.

You're giving him time with his children, I commend you. Kids need to know both parents. Their father is a part of who they are. When kids don't know both parents, they are missing a part of themselves. This is also true when a parent dies. I suggest you read about child psychology or consult with a child counselor to help you provide for their mental health. I suggest that their father moving closer to spend more time with them is a sign that he loves them and is willing to consider their needs. It's important that your decisions are based on your children's emotional as well as physical needs.

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N.C.

answers from San Diego on

If your ex wanted to take the kids camping would you refuse? Stop controlling the situation. He just moved!
If you have such a problem why don’t you provide an air mattress. Cheaper then a $3,000 retainer for an attorney.

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W.W.

answers from Washington DC on

J.

Welcome to mamapedia.

You need to read your custody order over again. You need to ensure you are NOT violating any court order about visitation. If it's NOT CLEARLY stated? then you need to go back to court and have it CLEARLY stated.

The courts just need to know they have a roof over their head. They don't necessarily "need" to have a bed. It's what you want. Although he did not tell the truth about the bunk beds.

You need to go back to court and get everything ironed out. Expectations. Accommodations, visitation, etc.

Good luck

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M.G.

answers from Portland on

What chacha said.

My friends' arrangements with exes are set in stone. Why not insist on this. 'Don't want to cross that boundary' and 'parental alienation' - ugh. Just go get this set in stone.

Don't worry about beds, focus on the bigger issue.

Otherwise it will be beds, then something else, ... and so on. Drama.

Maybe he did not have the bed set up. Who knows. Pick your battles carefully. He's your ex for a reason. Every friend I know goes through this.

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J.C.

answers from Anchorage on

Even if they were on the floor in sleeping bags it is not going to hurt them for a night or two and it is important for them to develop a relationship with their father who is clearly trying if he moved just to be closer. If the issue is financial maybe you could help him look around online or at thrifts shops to find something he can afford. Talk to him about it, but don't be accusatory, just offer to help or ask when he thinks he might be able to get some beds put in. He is trying, that is more than many people do.

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B.C.

answers from Norfolk on

Back when I was a child and my dad had visitation - the court order said he could visit me - as in he could pick me up from my moms home and we could do things for a day but he'd have to bring me home same day.
He could visit me - it was not permitted that I would visit him for overnights or weekends.
He lived far away (several states over) and he didn't have any custody at all.
This was in the 60's.

I think you need to know what visitation means as defined by your court order.
It could very well be that he's not suppose to have your kids for overnight visits - just day trips.
In which case he wouldn't need any beds/bedrooms because they'd never be staying at his house.
If you don't have a court order - well you need to get one.

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M.R.

answers from Washington DC on

To clarify--did he accuse you of parental alienation over this one issue of your balking about the kids visiting if there are no beds? Or has he pulled out that accusation before now?

Either way, the fact that he was quick to throw that term at you is a red flag. He clearly knows the legal terminology that would get a court's attention if he chooses to go to court to try to get a legal alteration to whatever your current visitation or custody agreement says.

See your lawyer ASAP and describe how your ex is tossing this term around. He may not have any legal leg to stand on but I'd still want my attorney to advise me on how to proceed. You may need to choose your battles and choose not to fight this issue of beds but keep close tabs on other potential lies about his actual living situation.

You may need to look into mediation if the lawyers say he doesn't HAVE to provide beds but you still feel strongly about it.

Keep all communications between you in both electronic and paper forms. That includes every text, email and call. Not just about the bed issue but every single contact. You may never need it but you also might need evidence about lying someday.

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T.P.

answers from Indianapolis on

You may have to check with an attorney but when my uncle and his wife had my cousins during visits they slept on the floor in sleeping bags. Their mom asked her attorney if she could keep her kids away because they didn't have a bed and she was told no. A sleeping bag was sufficient. Now that was over 20 years ago so things my be different now but I would check first.

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J.C.

answers from Philadelphia on

Your kids will most likely sleep on plenty of couches and floors once they are college age while staying in friend’s apartments. Consider this good practice 😉

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R.K.

answers from Appleton on

The kids need a home at both parents houses. A home means a bed and place to put their things such as closet space or drawer space. Tell him he needs to provide beds for the kids and a space for each of them. Laws differ in each state but I also believe if you have a daughter she is entitled to a room of her own past a certain age.
You need to talk to an attorney or a social worker to make sure the kids rights are observed.

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E.M.

answers from Louisville on

Get a lawyer. This is all things that need to go through the courts. It’s not to hurt him but it’s for documentation for both of you

Updated

Get a lawyer. This is all things that need to go through the courts. It’s not to hurt him but it’s for documentation for both of you

Updated

Get a lawyer. This is all things that need to go through the courts. It’s not to hurt him but it’s for documentation for both of you

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J.K.

answers from Wausau on

When my parents first divorced, my dad moved into an efficiency apartment. It was basically one large all purpose room and a bathroom. The two built in couches also served for sleeping on. When the three of us kids would visit, we'd use sleeping bags (and a pillow), as would our dad. We kids would take turns having our sleeping bags on the couches. It was totally fine. We liked going to visit our dad.

As a more recent example, my nephew's mother has primary custody. They lived in an apartment without regular beds for a few years. It bothered his father, but it wasn't illegal and his son didn't want to move, so it was something his dad had to get over.

Now on the opposite end of this, my niece's mother fund out that the living conditions at her daughter's dad's house were not safe nor appropriate, regardless of having a bed, and that was able to be addressed via court.

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