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ARE YOU STRUGGLING WITH SOMEONE WHO REFUSES TO FOLLOW THE COURT-ORDERED CHILD CUSTODY AGREEMENT? FIND OUT WHAT STEPS YOU CAN TAKE ABOUT THIS SITUATION TODAY.
Between forty and fifty percent of American marriages eventually end in divorce. Many of these divorcees have children together, and child custody is usually the most considerable concern in these situations.
Unfortunately, once a child custody agreement has been reached between the two parents and the court, it isn’t always abided by. Many people wonder what they can do when the other parent consistently violates the child custody agreement.
If you’re looking for the answer to this pressing question, continue reading. We’ll discuss not only what can be done about a custody violation but also what constitutes one and how to prove a violation has occurred.
What’s Typically Included in a Child Custody Agreement?
A child custody agreement is unique to each family’s desires and situation. For this reason, no two custody plans are precisely the same. When you, the other parent, and the court are creating the plan, it will almost always cover the same essential points.
Legal and Physical Custody
The custody plan will detail which parent has legal and physical custody of the child or children involved. Legal custody has to do with making important decisions like schooling and medical care. Physical custody refers to who the child lives with and who is mostly responsible for the children’s day-to-day care.
Both legal and physical custody can be joint or sole. Most courts will award joint legal custody and appoint a primary caregiver, which is the person the children will stay with most of the time. The other parent will receive parenting time based on a unique schedule that works for everyone involved and provides for the child’s best interests.
Sole custody is usually given only in extreme circumstances since this means one parent receives full custody of the child. When sole custody is given, it usually refers to both legal and physical. The other parent may have supervised visitation, or they may not receive any parenting time at all.
In standard child custody agreements, there are many ways parents may split parenting time. One typical example is where the child stays with their primary caregiver during the week and goes to the alternate parent on the weekends. Other examples include going to the alternate parent every other weekend or spending alternating weeks at each parent’s house.
There will also usually be a holiday schedule in the child custody agreement. Many parents choose to alternate major annual holidays. Other parents decide to split the holidays based on religious or sentimental importance.
The holiday schedule is usually determined during mediation, where the parents sit down with a court mediator to discuss what they each want. If the two parents can’t reach an agreement, the court may rule on the holiday schedule. This holiday schedule may also include vacation time, where applicable.
What Constitutes Breaking an Agreement?
Anything that goes against the custody agreement is a violation. There are some rare circumstances where a one-time break in the agreement is allowed. These rare circumstances almost exclusively pertain to emergencies.
A few examples of what constitutes breaking a court-ordered custody agreement include:
- One parent refusing court-ordered visitation to the other parent
- One parent continually missing their visitation time
- One parent interrupting the other’s parenting time
- A parent leaving state or country without the other parent’s permission
- A parent running away with the children (parental kidnapping)
How Can You Prove the Custody Agreement Has Been Broken?
Before something can be done about custody agreement violations, you must prove that the parenting plan has been violated. To do this, you’ll want to gather as much evidence as possible. In some circumstances (like parenting kidnapping), the fact the other parent didn’t show is sometimes enough.
In other situations, you’ll need to prove violations have occurred. Text messages, voice mails, audio recordings, and video evidence can help you establish this. Reliable witnesses who can testify in court that breaches in the agreement have occurred can also be helpful.
What Can Be Done?
When there is proof that a violation has happened, what can be done will depend on what happened. The penalties for child kidnapping will be far different than the penalties for continually refusing to show up for your parenting time.
If the Other Parent Refuses You Court-Ordered Visitation
If you have court-ordered parenting time with your child and the other parent refuses to let you see the children, several things can be done. The first step is to assign you make-up parenting time that is equal to or more what the other parent has denied you. If this is the first offense, or the visitation has only been refused a handful of times, this may be the only step taken.
However, if this is an ongoing issue, the parenting plan may be altered to give you more time with the child permanently. This may include making you the parent of primary residence or giving you one or two additional nights each week. In some cases, the violating parent may be subject to civil fines or be responsible for paying your attorney fees.
Parent Consistently Misses Their Visitation
Sometimes the parent of alternate residence will consistently fail to show up to get the children for their court-ordered visitation time. There are many reasons this is an issue, ranging from interfering with the primary parent’s schedule to emotional harm to the children.
If a parent refuses to pick up their children, the amount of custody time allowed will generally be reduced as a first step. This may mean the alternating parent can only get their children every other weekend instead of every weekend.
However, if the problem persists, the alternating parent can be at risk for having visitation time taken away. This is because courts rule in what is the best interests of a child. Having an unreliable parent who shows little to no interest in their children isn’t in the child’s best interest.
Parental kidnapping can include purposeful abduction of a child or even removing the child from the state or country without the other parent’s consent. This is not only a custody issue but is a criminal offense. The penalties for doing so reflect this.
A few examples of penalties that can occur for parental kidnapping include:
- Total loss of legal and physical custody of the children
- Civil fines
- Attorney fees for the other parent
- Jail time
- Community service and criminal fines
In most cases, parents who purposefully abduct their children are sentenced to jail time and have their custody rights revoked. These rights are seldom given back. If the parent does receive visitation time in the future, it is almost always supervised and with no overnight stays.
Other (Rarer) Violations
Other violations aren’t necessarily written into your custody agreement but are frowned upon by the court system. For example, parents who talk badly about the other to or in front of their children may be in violation. Parents who commit acts of domestic violence in front of their children, do drugs, or drink excessively could also be in violation.
In these cases, what can be done may be different than the other violations. If the other parent has committed an act of domestic violence against you or the children, you’ll need to pursue a restraining order. This is also known as an order of protection.
What can be done for these other violations also varies. Custody time with the violating parent may be restricted, and additional reliefs may be granted. For example, the violating parent may need to attend appropriate classes, pay fines, and submit to random drug testing.
Don’t Go It Alone
Navigating a custody case or pursuing reliefs for a violation of a custody order can be difficult. There are many rules and regulations that govern these types of cases, which can be incredibly confusing. This is why it’s highly suggested you work with a reputable lawyer who focuses on child custody and other family-related court cases.
Do You Have More Questions About Child Custody Agreement Violations?
If the other parent has violated the court-ordered child custody agreement, many things can be done. What can be done will vary wildly based on how the other parent violated the order, however. It’s highly recommended you hire a reliable lawyer who specializes in these types of cases.
Do you have more questions about child custody agreement violations? Or would you like to speak to one of our lawyers about your custody-related case?
Contact us today. One of our customer service representatives would be happy to answer any questions you still have. They can also set you up a consultation if desired.