During divorce proceedings, the court either approves the child custody and parenting plan agreements negotiated by the divorcing spouses and their attorneys or issues a custody order based on its own determination of what's in the child's best interests.
In addition to outlining the responsibilities of the parent with primary residential custody, these agreements also cover the other parent's obligations and parenting time schedule. Child custody and parenting time orders are legally binding, and parents who fail to uphold the terms of these agreements may be subject to penalties.
Common Child Custody and Parenting Time Agreement Violations
Even if both parents are trying, in good faith, to uphold their custody and parenting time agreements, the occasional hiccup can happen when co-parenting across two households.
However, custody and parenting time violations are more than just being five minutes late for pickup or drop off every once in a while. They're actions that have a negative impact on the children and either parent's relationship with them, such as:
- Refusing to follow the parenting time schedule. This type of violation can include scheduling activities for the child when they should be with the other parent, keeping the child overnight when they shouldn't, or failing to show up for parenting times.
- Taking the child without notice. If a parent takes a child when they're scheduled to be with the other parent without notification, it can be a serious violation of the child custody order. In some cases, it may even be considered kidnapping.
- Interfering with the child's ability to maintain a positive relationship with the other parent. Children in New Jersey have a right to a loving relationship with both parents. If the court finds out that one parent is trying to sabotage the other parent's relationship with their child, it may take corrective action.
- Making decisions for the child without legal authority. Parents who are awarded parenting time, but not legal custody, may be in violation of the parenting agreement if they make health, education, or other decisions for the child.
- Endangering or harming the child through their poor choices. This type of violation refers to parents who may be struggling with alcohol abuse, drug addiction, or other lifestyle choices that could negatively impact their child.
What You Can Do
When one parent refuses to honor the custody and parenting time agreements, your first inclination may be to involve the court. However, there are a few things you can do to try to resolve the issue before taking legal action, including:
- Talking to your former spouse about your concerns. The easiest and most direct way to address custody violations is to discuss them with your former spouse and co-parent. Not only does this give the other parent the opportunity to adjust their problematic behavior, but it also allows you to discuss any recent life changes and whether modifications to the parenting agreement may be in order.
- Keeping a careful record of child custody violations. If the other spouse won't change their ways and continues to violate the custody order, it's important to keep a detailed account of each violation. This record could serve as powerful evidence if you have to seek a legal remedy.
Legal Options for Enforcement
Unfortunately, not all issues with co-parents can be solved with a heart-to-heart chat. When your best efforts fail, it may be time to move forward with legal action. Your options for child custody and parenting time agreement enforcement include:
- Modifying your child custody and parenting time agreements. If the other parent's schedule or circumstances have changed, it may be wise to modify the child custody agreement so that it better meets the needs of both parents, as well as the child. However, if you've uncovered abuse, or found out your co-parent is trying to harm your relationship with your child, you can pursue a modification to limit their parenting time.
- Filing a motion to have your co-parent held in contempt. If your co-parent continues to repeatedly violate the child custody agreement after negotiations or mediation, you can file a motion for contempt in family court, which can have serious consequences.
If the court determines that your co-parent is guilty of violating the child custody agreement, it may order compensatory parenting time for you, changes to the custody plan's pickup and drop-off arrangements, or counseling for the parents or child at the non-compliant co-parent's expense. The parent who violated the custody agreement may also face:
- Fines and economic sanctions
- Court-ordered community service
- An arrest warrant
- And any other remedy the court deems appropriate.
Schedule a Consultation to Find Out How Our Attorneys Can Help
Is your co-parent refusing to comply with your custody and parenting time agreement? Contact Carl Taylor Law today to schedule an appointment for a discrete consultation.