I met with a father earlier this week for a consult. He mentioned that he had gone five months without seeing his teenage daughter and his rule to show cause to enforce his visitation was scheduled for a pre-trial but hadn’t been set for hearing. I found the matter distressing. As I have previous blogged in 216 months, one only has a limited time to develop a relationship with one’s child before that child becomes an adult. As I explained in Seeking criminal contempt for denied visitation, visitation interference is one of the few areas in family court in which I believe harsh sanctions are justified.
These views lead me to treat enforcement of visitation orders with urgency. The South Carolina Family Court rules support this urgency. Rule 27, SCRFC authorizes the family court clerk (not only the judge) to issue a rule to show cause upon a non-custodial person’s pro se petition to enforce an order that provides set visitation. It further authorizes the clerk to issue a rule to show cause upon a pro se petition to require the return of the child when the non-custodial person refuses to return the child to the custodial person at the end of the period of visitation. In both instances the clerk is required to set the rule within 30 days of the pro se affidavit being filed. Rule 27(c) SCRFC.
One should never allow more than thirty days to elapse between filing a rule to enforce visitation or obtain return of a child and the hearing date. In the past, when the court has proposed setting such a rule more than 30 days out, I have contacted the Chief Administrative Judge and requested the rule be set on an expedited basis. When the court is reminded of my client’s ability to file a pro se affidavit and get into court within 30 days, it has always honored that request.
Perhaps this is pushy, but visitation denial is one of those occasions in which it is completely appropriate to be pushy.