What rights do incarcerated parents have?

Co-parenting after a divorce can pose problems, especially when one parent is or becomes incarcerated in one of Missouri’s prisons. Whether you are the custodial parent or the incarcerated one, here are some things you need to know.

University of Missouri Extension explains that, under most circumstances, an incarcerated parent retains visitation rights. However, a court can suspend these rights if it determines that visitation with the incarcerated parent does not serve the child’s best interests. A court can likewise deny visitation if the incarcerated parent received a conviction for child abuse or another child-related crime.

Co-parenting types

The type and amount of visitation an incarcerated parent receives generally depends on what the specific institution allows and/or provides for. Your wisest strategy consists of asking your facility if it has a parent-child visitation program. If so, you may be able to visit with your children face-to-face in a “common room” where you can have limited physical contact with them. Many such rooms feature play areas that contain toys for young children and provide children of any age the opportunity to visit their incarcerated parent in a more relaxed environment.

Other possible co-parenting opportunities include the following:

  • Face-to-face visitation through a window with phone connection
  • Back-and-forth emails
  • Telephone conversations
  • Back-and-forth snail mail, including letters, holiday cards, etc.

Practical considerations

Naturally, the physical distance between the child’s home and the incarcerated parent’s institution plays a significant role in how much visitation actually takes place. The relationship between the parents, however, plays just as significant a role. Given that children need love and affection from both of their parents, the two of you should make every effort to maintain a civil and cooperative relationship and see to it that your kids have as much contact as possible with their incarcerated parent.

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