One of the hardest parts of divorce or some other sort of domestic breakup is losing daily contact with your child. This can be especially difficult when the court issues a custody and visitation order that you think is unfair. Either parent, custodial or non-custodial, might want to ignore the visitation terms of the order. If they do so, however, they're abusing the law and endangering their rights.
You Can Enforce a Visitation Order
The parent who has not violated the visitation terms of a custody order can always take the other parent back to court to enforce the order. This might happen if the child the parent lives with refuses to turn the child over to the other parent for visitation time.
Conversely, the non-custodial parent might refuse to return the child after visitation. Judges will generally order make-up time to the parent who lost visitation with the child because of the other parent's refusal. Many courts will also order both parents to attend counseling or mediation.
Contempt of Court for Violation of Visitation Order
When someone repeatedly abuses a visitation order, a judge can find that parent in contempt of court. This usually results in the violating parent having to pay the other parent's attorney's fees and legal fees for bringing the problem to the attention of a judge. Contempt can also result in the violating parent serving jail time. Usually, this is only for a short period of time if the parent promises to follow the visitation terms of the custody order in the future.
Criminal Charges for Violation of Visitation Order
In some states, interference with the visitation terms of a custody order is a criminal offense. This is particularly true if the parent abuses the court order repeatedly. Some states are less strict about criminal charges than others. In some areas, the violating parent must keep the child for a period of days, in spite of the other parent's objections, before the police will become involved.
Child Endangerment Changes the Rules
In some situations, a custodial parent can refuse to turn the child over for visitation. If the other parent has been drinking alcohol and is driving, for example, the custodial parents would be within rights to cancel the visit. If there is evidence that the child is being abused in the custodial parent's home, a non-custodial parent can refuse to return a child to this dangerous environment. Since these situations are serious, you might need the help of an attorney to bring the problem to the attention of a judge.
A Family Law Lawyer Can Help
The law surrounding child custody and visitation is complicated and contentious. Plus, the facts of each case are unique. This article provides a brief, general introduction to the topic. For more detailed, specific information, please contact a family law lawyer.