Father’s Rights for a Sleepover?

Dorene and Richard Ward of Georgia were divorced in March of 2007 and Richard was awarded primarily physical custody of the parties’ two children.

In 2008, Dorene filed an action to obtain sole custody of the children.  She lost and the court amended her visitation to provide that she “shall not have any overnight male guests while the minor children are present.”

Dorene appealed contending that this provision was overbroad, because on its face it prohibits her from having her father, a brother, a new spouse, or even the children’s father spend the night at her house while the minor children are present.

The appeals court agreed.  It said a trial court has discretion to place restrictions on custodial parents’ behavior that will harm their children.  While the trial court could limit visitation if it finds that the children would be adversely affected if any boyfriends of Dorene spent the night with her, the restriction against “any overnight male guests” would prohibit Dorene from having visitors with whom she has no romantic relationship and for whom the record does not support a finding of any harmful effect on her children.

Ward v. Ward, No. S11A0437 (Georgia Supreme Court, May 31, 2011)