The parent-child relationship is never more complex than when one parent is incarcerated. Even when a parent has been convicted of a crime and is serving time in prison, that parent can still have appropriate contact with their children as long as it remains in the best interest of the child. When arranging visitation with an imprisoned parent, it is essential to prepare the child in every way possible.
There are some important things to have in mind when facilitating such a visit:
- Children love their parents - Even if the parent was convicted of a serious crime, children often separate that fact completely from their love of that parent. Even if the child expresses anger, shame or hurt, they might never relinquish their love for their parent. It is important to allow the child to express all feelings and not scold or discourage any display of emotion for either parent.
- A parent in prison is not necessarily a bad parent - A parent who commits and is convicted of a crime is often still capable of being a loving parent.
- Regular visitation helps reunification - If the parent is serving a limited prison term, there is an assumption that the parent and child will reestablish regular contact at some point after the prison term ends. It might be easier for both if the parent and child have ongoing visits during incarceration so as to maintain some degree of connection.
- Visitation can be stressful - A child who is visiting a parent in prison might experience significant trauma from the visit. The court can order cancelation of such visits, at any time, if they seem to be too stressful for the child. It is essential that a child with an incarcerated parent receive adequate emotional and psychological support during this time.
- A divorced parent is not obligated to visit - If the custodial parent is divorced from the incarcerated parent, the custodial parent has no obligation to take the child to visits. A grandparent, social worker or court-appointed supervisor can be designated to accompany the child to prison visits.
If you share children with a current or ex-spouse who has been incarcerated, family law attorney Steven M. Bishop can help you determine if visitation is in the best interest of your children. Call the San Diego office at 619-299-9780 or contact us online.