Even after a divorce is finalized, it may not always be smooth sailing for you and your ex-spouse, especially if child custody is involved. If you have minor children, and are the non-custodial parent, you probably determined a visitation schedule in court. Since this schedule is legally binding, you do have options if your ex-spouse decides to violate the schedule or withhold visitation rights.
Occasional Visitation Schedule Violations
An occasional violation of the visitation schedule is usually no cause for alarm. Mistakes can happen and usually any disagreements can be worked out between the parents. In these cases, if a visitation time is missed, it should be made up. This “make-up” visitation should be scheduled in advance and tracked by the non-custodial parent in writing. If you’ve noticed that visitation violations have started happening more recently, you should begin keeping a written record of any missed or late visitations.
If you’re not able to schedule make-up visitations with the other parent and they continue withholding the child, then you can pursue other avenues in order to uphold your legal visitation rights. However, this is not the time for drastic or retaliatory measures like “self-help” or withholding child support.
Since your child is legally entitled to that periodic payment, withholding these funds is considered a violation of court orders and you could receive substantial fines or jail time. Additionally, “self-help,” otherwise known as just taking the child for a period of time, is considered kidnapping and can lead to arrest. Instead, you should contact a local attorney who can advise you on the next steps you should take to enforce your rights.
Frequent Visitation Schedule Violations
If the visitation violations have been occurring for a while, there are more drastic steps you can take. In some states, the non-custodial parent is able to involve a police officer in order to enforce visitation. However, in many cases, the police may refuse to get involved in domestic affairs. Additionally, involving police officers in a visitation situation can cause increased hostility between the parents.
In these cases, the non-custodial parent is able to go to the courts and file a legal petition to have a judge enforce visitation rights. If you need to file one of these petitions, it is a good idea to involve an attorney who can assist with the proceedings. If the violations have gotten extreme, then the courts may renegotiate the custodial agreements or even transfer custody over to the previously non-custodial parent.
Child custody guidelines can be very complicated and vary by state. If you have been experiencing custodial issues with the other parent, contact a local family law attorney to discuss your options.