My Ex Isn’t Following Custody Orders, What to Do?
As with the enforcement of a child support order, the first thing you need to do is to GET A COURT ORDER FOR CHILD CUSTODY.
First, Get a CLEAR Order
Before there is a court order, anything goes. There isn’t a “violation of an order” unless there is first an order.
You can obtain an Court via filing a case and then filing a Request for Orders.
The Order must be very clear and include details of which parent has custody during which days and hours. If your order only says that you have “reasonable visitation”, it will be very difficult to enforce. A clear order example is the following: you have custody on Mondays and Tuesdays, from after school to return to school on Wednesday morning at 8 am.
Once you have the Order, keep it in a safe place where you can find it.
Requesting a Modification of Orders
Seeking a modification of orders is the most overlooked remedy in Family Court. If one person isn’t abiding by the Court orders, it’s clear that the Order is not working.
If one parent is suppose to have custody and visitation, but never uses their time, you should document the many times they have repeatedly missed visitations. The operative word is “repeatedly”. I always encourage people to be flexible.
For example, if someone missed their visitation because of an emergency appendectomy, this is not a good basis for modifying custody.
If one party repeatedly withholds visitation, your request to modify the custodial parent may just be granted, because courts do not like people violating orders. They also prefer parents who are able to co-parent, rather than an unreasonable gatekeeper.
Calling the Police
Personally, I don’t think family law litigants should liberally avail themselves of the police whenever they want. This is at the heart of the “Defund the Police” movement, that police should not be called to interfere with family fights; and that the interests of the families would be better served by mental health professionals.
There is truth to that.
If you have a clear order that you are to have custody, but the other side has withheld them, you are within your right to call the police and have them escort the children back from the violating parent. However, this is very frightful to the children and may leave a lasting legacy of trauma. I would personally think twice about calling the police to enforce your order. It is always better to have a peaceful child exchange. But if the child is in danger, or there is no other option, utilize the local police. Make sure you have a copy of your Order.
Filing a Motion for Contempt
You can also opt to have the Court “slap the wrist” of the violator. Contempts are quasi-criminal, meaning they carry both civil and criminal liabilities, including jail time. It may vindicate your desire for revenge to send the other parent to jail, but remember, this is a difficult remedy to obtain. Because of the “criminal” nature, the burden is very high to prove, and the violator may be appointed an attorney.
If You Believe Your Child Has Been Kidnapped
- Contact the Police.
- Contact the District Attorney Child Abduction Unit.
- Make sure your child is entered into the National Crime Information Center database
- Contact the National Center of Missing and Exploited Children.
If you are worried about the other side kidnapping your child:
- Keep clear information on your ex: Social security, driver’s license, recent photos, description, employer, whereabouts.
- Keep tabs on your ex: Keep a list of all his colleagues, friends, family and their contacts.
- Take photos of your child frequently.
My Ex Isn’t Paying Support!
For this issue, please read My Ex Isn’t Paying Support!