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Legal Information: Delaware

Statutes: Delaware

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March 26, 2024

§ 728. Residence; visitation; sanctions

(a) The Court shall determine, whether the parents have joint legal custody of the child or 1 of them has sole legal custody of the child, with which parent the child shall primarily reside and a schedule of visitation with the other parent, consistent with the child’s best interests and maturity, which is designed to permit and encourage the child to have frequent and meaningful contact with both parents unless the Court finds, after a hearing, that contact of the child with 1 parent would endanger the child’s physical health or significantly impair his or her emotional development. The Court shall specifically state in any order denying or restricting a parent’s access to a child the facts and conclusions in support of such a denial or restriction.

(b) The Court shall encourage all parents and other persons to foster the exercise of a parent’s joint or sole custodial authority and the maintenance of frequent and meaningful contact, in person, by mail and by telephone, between parents and children unless an order has been entered pursuant to subsection (a) of this section denying or restricting such contact. If the Court finds, after a hearing, that a parent has violated, interfered with, impaired or impeded the rights of a parent or a child with respect to the exercise of joint or sole custodial authority, residence, visitation or other contact with the child, the Court shall order such person to pay the costs and reasonable counsel fees of the parent applying for relief under this section. The Court shall also impose 1 or more of the following remedies or sanctions:

(1) Extra visitation with the child to enable the child to make up any wrongfully denied visitation with a parent;

(2) A temporary transfer of custody or primary residence or both of the child to a parent applying for relief under this section for up to 30 days without regard to the factors set forth in § 729 of this title;

(3) A surcharge to be assessed against the parent with rights of visitation with the child or children for his or her unilateral failure, without just cause and/or without sufficient notice, to comply with the visitation schedule. Failure to comply consists of more than minimal violations, such as, but not limited to, slight alterations in the times for visitation. The amount of the surcharge shall be up to 10 percent of the visiting parent’s monthly child support obligation for each violation and shall be payable to the parent with whom the child or children resides or children reside;

(4) A fine in the discretion of the Court; or

(5) A term of imprisonment if a person is found to be in contempt of prior orders of the Court.

In addition, the Court may impose such other sanctions or remedies as the Court deems just and proper to ensure the maintenance in the future of frequent and meaningful contact between parent and child and participation by both parents in the child’s upbringing if the parents have joint legal custody.

(c) A parent of a child who believes it to be in the best interests of a child for the custodial authority, visitation or communication between a parent and a child as established by a prior Court order or written agreement of the parties to be modified may apply to the Court for such modification, and the Court may grant such an application if it finds after application of the standards set forth in subsection (a) of this section that the best interests of the child would be served by ordering such a modification. The filing of an application under this subsection by any person shall not be a defense in an action brought against any person under subsection (b) of this section unless the Court has entered an appropriate order allowing such conduct prior to the occurrence of the conduct complained of in the action brought under subsection (b) of this section.

(d) Before entering an order for visitation to be conducted in a correctional facility the Court shall in addition to other relevant factors consider the following:

(1) The parent seeking visitation in a correctional facility had a substantial and positive relationship with the child prior to incarceration;

(2) The nature of the offense for which the parent seeking visitation is incarcerated;

(3) Whether the victim of the offense is the child, a sibling of the child, stepsibling, half sibling, parent, stepparent, grandparent, guardian or custodian of the child; and,

(4) Whether the child seeks a relationship with the incarcerated parent.

(e) The Court shall not enter an order requiring visitation in a correctional facility if the person incarcerated is a sex offender unless the requirements of subchapter II of Chapter 7A of this title are met.

(f) The Court shall not enter an order requiring visitation in a correctional facility if the person incarcerated has been adjudicated of committing murder in the first or second degrees.