In Camacho v. Camacho, the appellate court addressed whether a family law judge can limit a non-custodial parent’s visitation with the child until the parent pays child support and undergoes psychiatric therapy.
The parties in this case had a baby together. The father rarely visited his son during the first four years of his son’s life. The mother decided to remarry and informed the child’s father that she no longer wanted him to see their son. The father initiated a paternity action to request visitation.
The family court determined the child’s paternity. The mother requested an order for a gradual increase in visitation so that the father and child would get to know each other. The trial court ordered the gradual increase in visitation as long as the father participated in counseling and paid child support. The order did not define the amount of time the father would have to participate in therapy.
The Second District Appellate Court held that once paternity was established, a father’s visitation could not be dependent on whether or not he paid child support unless there was also a showing that it was in the child’s best interest. The legislature has repeatedly recognized that the right of visitation and support accrue to the benefit of the child and are independent of each other.
The appellate court also held that it was error to order the father to attend counseling indefinitely when there was no finding that the father’s mental health was at issue. It is a violation of the father’s due process rights to undergo psychiatric treatment when nothing in the record suggested a need for therapy, and nothing in the psychologist’s testimony indicated that the child would suffer trauma if the father did not see his father.
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