THE REPRESENTATION YOU NEED IN ORDER TO PROTECT YOUR FAMILY
Posted in Child Custody on February 13, 2019
Child custody is one of the most complex matters in a Colorado divorce case. Determining which parent will receive joint, shared, or full custody of children will become a decision of the court, if the parents cannot agree to custody terms on their own. The number one factor a judge will consider when making custody determinations is the best interests of the child. Colorado law makes it mandatory for a judge to consider this first when deciding parental responsibilities.
If you are going through a divorce in Fort Collins and children are involved, do not wait until this important decision is entirely in a judge’s hands. Call the Fort Collins child custody lawyers at the Law Office of Stephen Vertucci at (970) 900-1800 today and arrange for a consultation.
What Factors Affect a Custody Decision?
Although a child’s best interests come first, many different things can influence a judge’s decision during a child custody case. Both parents will have the opportunity to state their cases for custody. The judge will listen to both sides, speak to people close to the child, and may discuss the matter with the child depending on the situation. The judge will then use a variety of factors to make the final determination.
- Child’s age
- Interaction between the child and parents and siblings
- Home, school, and community adjustments
- Parents’ mental and physical health
- Willingness of parents to share the child
A judge may also take into account the child’s own wishes. However, that is not to say your child will have the ability to decide whom to live with during a divorce. A judge may ask a child who is old enough (typically 12 to 14) which parent he or she prefers to live with the majority of the time. A judge will typically do this outside of the courtroom, to keep the child out of the case as much as possible. A judge will use a third-party evaluator to ascertain the child’s wishes. Then, the judge may consider this during the decision.
The Power of a Child’s Wishes
Each child custody case is unique. In Colorado, as in most states, no hard and fast rule exists with an age at which children are old enough to make custody decision on their own. Instead, judges will take each case as they come. Most courts agree that age 14 is old enough to give kids some say in custody battles. By ages 16 and 17, children may have more influence over which parent they live with. Some courts will place significant weight with the opinions of children this old. Children younger than 14, however, will have a harder time getting a judge to take their wishes into account.
A judge will never base a custody decision solely on the wishes of the child, regardless of age. However, a judge may consider an older child’s wishes in the final determination. A child’s wishes may come true if a judge determines that is what is in the child’s best interests. Otherwise, the child will have to live with the other parent, even if he or she does not want to. A judge will always rule in favor of the best interests of the child, regardless of what the child wants or does not want. Yet a child old enough may be able to sway the judge’s decision.
Can a Child Change a Custody Order?
No, the wishes of a child to go live with the other parent are not enough on its own to change a custody agreement in Colorado. Colorado Revised Statutes Section 14-10-129 states that a child must be in physical or emotional danger for the judge to approve a change in primary residential child custody. Even if a teenage child wants to live with the other parent, he or she lawfully cannot do so without proving physical or significant emotional endangerment. Going to live with the other parent without an official custody agreement modification could put the parent in violation of the order.
More Information / FAQ’s on Child Custody
- Factors Parents Should Consider When Determining Child Custody
- Are Mothers Favored in the Child Custody Process?
- Can You Lose Custody of Your Child if You Miss Too Many Visitations?
- Is Co-Parenting Right for Your Child Custody Case?
- Colorado Child Custody Laws
When a person with a biological child marries another person, the new spouse becomes the child’s stepparent. There are many situations in which a stepparent may wish to raise the child permanently with the child’s biological parent, and adoption is the best way to ensure the child has the legal protection afforded to a biological child. An adoption can also help bring a family closer.
In Colorado, a stepparent may adopt a spouse’s biological child under certain conditions. First, the stepparent must not have any prior felony convictions that involve child abuse, violent crime, or crimes of a sexual nature.
Under Colorado law, a child is eligible for adoption when the other biological parent is deceased, or the court has officially ended the parent-child legal relationship between the child and the other biological parent. If the other parent is still alive, he or she must voluntarily relinquish parental rights or provide written permission for the adoption to the other biological parent.
Benefits of Stepparent Adoption
Stepparent adoption can help a mixed family feel more “whole” in several ways. The adopted child may take the new adoptive parent’s last name and feel like more of a family. Depending on the age of the adopted child, a stepparent adoption can be a great way to overcome the difficulties of a divorce or the death of a parent.
The adopted child will have all of the rights that a biological child would, including inheritance rights and the right to pursue a wrongful death claim if the adoptive parent dies due to the negligence of another party.
The Adoption Process
Once a biological parent obtains the consent of the other biological parent for the adoption to move forward, the adoptive parent will need to undergo a federal and state criminal background check. The adoptive parent must also obtain and complete several forms, including:
- Petition for Adoption
- Verified Statement of Fees Charged
- Consent to Adoption – Custodial Parent
- Consent to Adoption – Child Over Twelve Years of Age
- Notice of Hearing
- Petition to Terminate the Parent-Child Legal Relationship
- Consent to Adoption – Non-Custodial Parent
- Waiver and Acceptance of Service
An experienced family law attorney can help an adoption applicant fill out the necessary paperwork and track down any other documentation that may need to accompany the petition.
After completing and submitting this packet of paperwork, the court will likely send an investigator to conduct a home check. This person’s job is to determine whether the adoption would be in the best interest of the child. The investigator will likely ask the child a few questions about his or her home life, school, and his or her relationship with the parents. The investigator will also interview the parents, relatives, step-siblings, and other parties who may be able to provide insight into the family’s dynamics.
The Adoption Hearing and Beyond
Once the investigator provides the court with his or her findings, the adoption process will proceed to a hearing. During this hearing, the adoption applicant will provide the judge with his or her reasoning why the judge should end the legal parent-child relationship with the other biological parent and approve the adoption. If the other biological parent does not contest the adoption or has voluntarily relinquished his or her parental rights, the judge will likely approve the adoption petition.
After the judge approves the adoption, he or she will issue a Final Decree formalizing the adoption and recognizing the legal parent-child relationship between the adoptive parent and adopted child. The parents may also arrange for a name change and a reissued birth certificate. Adoption can help safeguard a family’s financial future and protect an adopted child in several ways. If you believe that an adoption would be right for your family, consult an attorney as soon as possible.
A custody agreement is a complex, very detailed legal document that outlines both parents’ obligations and rights concerning their children after a divorce. There are different types of custody, and countless possible formats a custody arrangement might take. Some parents may wonder if they must still pay child support in a joint physical custody arrangement in which the parents split their time with the children 50/50.
Logic would dictate that if the parents spend equal time with their children, then neither parent should have to pay child support since they share equal responsibility. Child support generally exists so that a higher-earning parent who divorces a lower-earning parent will still contribute toward the children’s living expenses. While a 50/50 custody agreement may seem like it would preclude child support, this is rarely the case. The most important factors in any child support agreement are the time each parent spends with their children and each parent’s individual income. For more detailed about this, contact an experienced child support attorney in Fort Collins, CO.
Income Models for Child Support Determinations
Each state has unique laws concerning child support, and this includes the income models used to inform custody arrangements. In an income shares model, the court would determine the percentages of each parent’s income toward the total family income. If the family’s annual income is $200,000 and one spouse earns $125,000 per year while the other spouse only earns $75,000 per year, the lower-earning spouse would be responsible for a smaller share of the children’s living expenses.
Ten states and Washington, D.C. use a percentage of income models to determine support payments. In these cases, the court only considers the amount of income the noncustodial parent earns and requires him or her to pay a flat percentage in support to the custodial parent.
Time Spent vs. Support Payments
Courts also take the amount of time the children spend with each parent into account when determining child support payment amounts. The court will usually consider the number of overnights a child has with each parent to determine the level of custody each parent has in the agreement. Rather than requiring a perfectly even split of 182 overnights per year with each parent, courts generally consider “significant” amounts of overnight time as any custody arrangement beyond every other weekend with one parent. For example, a state may uphold that 123 overnights per year are enough to qualify as joint physical custody.
The amount of support a parent pays generally reflects the time he or she spends with his or her children. For example, a parent who only has about 100 overnight visits per year with his children may need to pay 20% of his income in support while a parent who has 180 overnights may only need to pay 10%. Some custody agreements may include payment schedules that fluctuate over the course of a typical year. For example, if one parent only sees the children on weekends during the school year but has them during the weekdays in the summer, that parent may pay more in child support over the school year and less during the time he or she has the children.
Adjusting Your Child Support Agreement
It’s important for co-parents to stay in touch regarding issues with their children as well as important life events that may impact a custody agreement. For example, one parent may receive an offer for an out-of-state job that would require him or her to move. Another example could be a noncustodial parent losing his or her job and being unable to pay required child support payments.
There are many resources available to divorced parents in these situations, and it’s important to speak honestly about these issues with your ex-spouse. If you are concerned about your obligations under your custody agreement or believe your agreement requires an adjustment, speak with a Fort Collins divorce attorney about your concerns.
Posted in Child Custody on June 28, 2018
Family law leans heavily on the concept of parental rights, which include a parent’s rights to make decisions about a child’s education, healthcare, and upbringing, as well as the right to make major decisions on behalf of a child. However, parental rights also come with significant responsibilities. A parent must provide basic necessities such as food, clothing, and shelter, but must also arrange child support, healthcare, and other similar needs. In some cases, a parent may decide to voluntarily relinquish his or her parental rights.
The court will often consider a parent’s request to voluntarily terminate his or her parental rights if another individual is willing to step in and care for the child, as in the case of adoption. If a child’s parent remarries a new spouse who is willing to assume legal custody and parental rights of the child, the other parent may voluntarily terminate his or her rights to allow for the adoption to take place. Some of the most common reasons for a person to voluntarily terminate his or her parental rights include:
- Making way for an adoption.
- Long-term mental illness or mental deficiency of the parent.
- Long-term substance abuse of the parent.
- Failure to maintain contact with a child.
In these cases, a parent may recognize his or her own inability to care for the child and voluntarily relinquish his or her parental rights. In other cases, the court may revoke an individual’s parental rights for a number of reasons, such as incarceration, a history of sexual abuse, physical abuse, or neglect of children.
What Happens If I Give Up My Parental Rights?
If you voluntarily terminate your parental rights, you won’t have any financial obligations to your child anymore, but you will likely also lose the ability to play a role in your child’s life or have any say in major decisions about your child’s upbringing, education, spiritual life, or any similar matters.
It’s very important to take this decision very seriously, as it is very difficult to reverse or alter. In some cases, you and your ex-spouse may be able to devise a mutually agreeable solution that allows for visitation, but this will only be an option if your ex-spouse is agreeable to the idea after you voluntarily terminate your parental rights.
It’s also important to remember that you have no guarantee of approval with a request to terminate your parental rights. The court’s primary focus is the best interests of the child. If your ex-spouse does not wish to have a role in your child’s life but you cannot afford to support your child on your own, the court may decide that what is expedient for the parents is not in the child’s best interests. There must be good cause for a parent to voluntarily terminate his or her parental rights. Simply not wishing to be a parent is not good enough. A judge will also refuse to grant a termination of parental rights simply so you don’t have to pay child support.
In adoptions, birth parents voluntarily give up parental rights to the adoptive parents. However, if a birth parent does so under coercion or duress and does not truly wish to give up a child, he or she can sometimes secure a reversal through the family law system. The parent arguing for reversal and reinstatement of parental rights will need to provide evidence that the termination occurred under coercion or duress.
Ultimately, when it comes to voluntary termination of parental rights or reinstatement of involuntarily terminated parental rights, the court will decide with the child’s best interests in mind. Just remember that if you file for termination of your parental rights voluntarily, it is very difficult to reverse such a decision, and you may be giving up any chance of having a relationship with your child.
Posted in Child Custody on June 7, 2018
The state of Colorado handles custody battles between unwed parents in much the same way as custody issues between married parents, with a few notable exceptions. It’s vital for unwed parents in Colorado to understand their rights and obligations and know what to expect from the Colorado child custody system. An child custody attorney can help either parent sort out his or her documentation and build a strong case for custody.
When married couples file for divorce and child custody becomes an issue, the parents will likely submit a Voluntary Acknowledgement of Paternity (VAP). Unwed parents who agree to the paternity of the children in question can also submit this form. The Voluntary Acknowledgement of Paternity allows fathers to legally establish their paternity in child custody matters. It’s essential for fathers to take this process seriously and refrain from acknowledging paternity without evidence. If the parents disagree on a child’s paternity, the judge handling the case will likely issue a paternity test to confirm the child’s parentage.
This is an important step, because a man who voluntarily acknowledges paternity without evidence runs the risk of winding up locked into a custody agreement for someone else’s child. This can cause serious problems for the parents and the children if the truth comes out later, and some individuals want solid proof of paternity before acknowledging children as their own. It’s also a crucial step for fathers who want legal certainty of their parental rights. If the child’s mother denies the father’s paternity, the father can request a paternity test for indisputable proof of parentage and secure his rights to custody.
By law, an unwed father has no parental rights without proof of paternity. However, a judge cannot require an unwed father to pay child support without proof of paternity. In such a case, either the court or the child’s mother would petition for a paternity test.
Deciding Child Custody After Establishing Paternity
Once the court documents a child’s official parentage, a custody battle between unwed parents will function almost identically to a custody battle between married or divorcing parents. The court’s first priority is the child’s best interests, and the judge handling the case will review each parent’s financial status, living situation, past criminal record, and parental responsibilities.
The judge will likely want to rule in favor of an arrangement that includes minimal disruption to the child’s typical schedule. If the parents live separately in different school districts, the judge will likely consider each school district’s overall rating and proximity to the parents’ homes to decide which school would be the best fit for the child. The court will sometimes take a child’s preference into account if the child can articulate his or her thoughts on the matter.
Unwed parents do not go through the divorce process (when divorcing parents would typically decide child custody), so they can instead draw up a mutually agreeable child custody agreement that includes visitation rights as well as legal and physical custody. For example, the judge may award physical custody to both parents, but only one parent may receive legal custody and have the authority to make major decisions on behalf of the child.
Ultimately, unwed parents in a child custody battle need reliable legal representation to protect their personal rights as well as their rights to child custody. An attorney can help an unwed father establish paternity to secure his custody rights, or to help him fight an inaccurate allegation of paternity if necessary. Both unwed mothers and fathers can also reach mutually agreeable child custody and child support arrangements with the help of experienced family law attorneys.
Posted in Child Custody on February 27, 2018
Divorce isn’t easy on anyone, but children often suffer the most in the dissolution of a marriage. Your Colorado child custody attorney can help you understand the laws regarding custody in Colorado. One viable option for some parents is co-parenting; if you are considering a divorce and looking for ways to make the transition easier on your children, co-parenting may be a good option.
What Is Co-Parenting?
For a long time, judges tended to assume that the children of divorcing spouses, especially the very young, would be better off with the mother. Known as the Tender Years Doctrine, it has been widely used since the 19th century. Courts across the country have started ruling that the Tender Years Doctrine is unfair to the fathers, so it has recently begun to be replaced by the concept of co-parenting.
Co-parenting is when two people who are divorced still share parental responsibilities. It is referred to as the Best Interests of the Child Doctrine because of the belief that children have healthier childhoods if they can spend equal amounts of time with each parent. Co-parenting is designed so that the child does not have to have two completely different lives with each parent, and can have a more unified childhood. Though for some people it can be a good option, it is not the ideal choice for all families. Less amicable family dynamics and circumstances can make this a more harmful situation for the child. Whether this is the right option or not depends on many factors. These are some of the benefits and disadvantages that are possible in a co-parenting situation.
Pros of Co-Parenting
The major benefit of co-parenting is that the child can have interaction, access, and a relationship with each parent even after they divorce. Having regular contact with both parents can give the child a more unified feeling, and strengthen the sense that both parents still love them. Co-parenting also reminds a child that their parents can work together, which has been proven to lead to a healthier outlook.
Co-parenting also gives the child more financial support. There is an endless list of expenses required to meet a child needs, including education, medical care, and many others. Both parents play a more active role meeting the child’s needs in a co-parenting situation.
There are also benefits for the parents in a co-parenting situation. Raising a child can be extremely stressful, and it is often easier to do with another person, even if you are divorced. Having both parents sharing the child’s care can reduce the stress and pressure felt by each parent.
Cons of Co-Parenting
After a divorce, one person usually moves out of the family home. Co-parenting can be difficult if the parents live far apart. It will take extra coordinating with driving time and multiple other factors. Constantly traveling back and forth can be exhausting for both the child and the parents.
In a co-parenting situation, jealousy can quickly arise. If the child develops a closer relationship with one parent, the other could become frustrated or upset, causing extra drama and tension for the child and the parents.
Jealousy can also be a factor if the child grows more fond of one situation over the other. If one of the parents feels like the child prefers being in the other’s home, they could become jealous.
Learn If Co-Parenting Is Right for You
There are many options for parents after a divorce in Colorado. Co-parenting is not always the best decision for you or your child. If you need help understanding the legal ramifications of your choices, discuss your choices with a knowledgeable divorce attorney.
A Colorado mediation is a dispute resolution strategy that takes place in front of an impartial third-party judge or mediator. Mediation is a common strategy for families during divorce and child custody cases, with the purpose of resolving disputes before going to court. If both parties can come to an agreement during mediation, a trial is unnecessary. In mediation, you have the power and flexibility to come up with your solution without a judge’s interference. Knowing what to expect can give you an advantage during this process in Colorado.
Mediation Is a Discussion, Not a Debate
The goal of mediation is to resolve disputes by reaching mutual agreements or compromises. It is not a situation in which one party wins and the other loses. Each person must obtain the other person’s cooperation for a successful outcome. Mediations, therefore, should not turn into heated debates or arguments with the other party. Instead, keep it a conversation about the matter at hand with the mission of working together to solve the problem. Consider what you say during mediation carefully to keep the goal of a joint compromise in sight.
Mediation Takes Paperwork
Prior to mediation, both parties need to exchange case summaries with one another and the mediator. The documents should:
- Go to the mediator seven to 14 days prior to mediation
- Aim to educate the mediator on the situation
- Strive to convince the other party to negotiate
- Provide a factual summary of the situation
- Include a summary of events, if necessary
- Outline any legal issues and factual issues
- Identify both parties’ differences and common ground
- Have critical supporting documents attached
In the days leading up to mediation, the mediator will usually introduce him or herself to both parties in person or by phone. The mediator may ask questions about the paperwork at this point.
The Mediator Does Not Pick Sides
Talking in front of a mediator can feel daunting at first, as if you are trying to prove yourself and get the mediator on “your side.” This is not the point of mediation. A mediator does not pick sides or place blame on one party. The mediator’s job is to maintain a neutral role during the attempt to get the parties to manage a dispute. The mediator will establish rules for the meeting and help keep both parties in line during the discussion. He or she will also help both parties identify and work through issues in need of resolution.
The Mediator is Not a Judge
At the end of mediation, the mediator will not make a final judgment call on the dispute resolution. If both parties cannot come up with terms they both agree upon, the matter will move to trial. Otherwise, the parties will come to a mutual agreement and the mediator will draft the paperwork fulfilling their wishes. The mediator will not make decisions for you or make any orders. A mediator is more of a peacekeeper than a judge.
Mediation Takes Tact, Patience, and an Open Mind
If you walk into mediation thinking you are going to lay out your demands and stick to them until the other party gives in, you will likely find the proceedings surprising and disappointing. Mediation takes understanding the other person’s point of view, using tactful honesty and willingness to compromise when you can. Walk into the room with the right mindset for the best results.
Posted in Child Custody on November 27, 2017
Families come apart for numerous reasons: death, divorce, abuse, imprisonment, long-term separation (e.g., military deployment), and more. In these instances, sometimes the grandparents are the most stable guardians in a child’s life. Despite this, grandparents do have automatic legal rights regarding their grandchildren, though specifics regarding custody vary from state to state. To make sure your relationship with your grandchildren doesn’t end after their parents’ divorce, imprisonment, or other situation, do your research on what basic rights you have as the grandparent.
- Grandparent Rights
All states recognize some form of grandparent’s rights to custody and visitation of their grandchildren. However, these are not constitutional, rather, they stem from state legislative decisions made over the past four decades. There are some pertinent federal laws for grandparents, such as the Parental Kidnapping Prevention Act, which guarantees recognition of state custody decrees in all other states, and federal legislation from 1998, which requires states to acknowledge and enforce grandparent visitation orders from other states. Additionally, all states adopted the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act, a law with similar provisions in all states ensuring recognition and enforcement of valid custody orders from other states.
Some states’ supreme courts, however, have declared statutes allowing grandparent visitation to be in violation of parental rights and thus unconstitutional. One Washington State case upheld such a decision, affecting precedent in similar cases.
- Custody Considerations
For grandparents to win visitation or custody rights, courts must take into account certain considerations. Visitation and custody requirements differ from each other and from state to state. Grandparents should familiarize themselves with the conditions for each before filing a petition.
- Child’s Well-Being
A custodial or visitation rights determination must consider what is in the best interest of the child before awarding either to a grandparent. Some states have listed factors for court consideration, while others leave it to the courts to establish this list. These factors can include: the needs, safety, and welfare of the child; parental or grandparental ability to care for the child; desires of parents or grandparents; (the children’s desires if they are old enough to make decisions); type of relationship between grandparent and child; any evidence of abuse or neglect in the relationships or substance abuse by parent or grandparent; and the relative distance between where the child currently lives and the custodial applicants.
- Grandparent Custodial/Visitation Requirements
In instances wherein the parents are alive but the grandparents seek custody, grandparents must prove that neither parent is capable of raising the children properly and that the grandparents can do so. This can be difficult if the parents do not want this to happen. If the parents are dead, most states include grandparents in custodial considerations.
There are several conditions grandparents must meet for the courts to award them visitation rights. These vary from state to state as well, but most of them include determination of parental marital status, limitations of the rights if both parents are alive, and refusal of visitation in the event of an adoption by another parent or grandparent, among other conditions. Once courts have evaluated all applicable conditions, grandparents must prove to the courts that visitation rights are in the best interest of the child.
Staying informed of your rights as a grandparent can help you find the best situation for you and your grandchildren during the turmoil that lies in the wake of a marriage ending. Remember to educate yourself as states view the legal rights of grandparents differently. Keep the best interests of your grandchildren in mind throughout the process, as their comfort and mental wellbeing are the most important factors.
If you are going through a custody battle, contact the Fort Collins child custody attorneys at the Law Office of Stephen Vertucci to see how we can help you with your case.
Posted in Child Custody on September 27, 2017
There has been a tremendous amount of public discussion over equal rights in recent years. One significant issue seems consistently ignored despite these trends is the treatment of fathers in the child custody process. This is an area of life that leaves men at a distinct disadvantage compared to women, and the family court system routinely favors women in child custody disputes.
There have been several recent changes in the family court system that have helped to repair this divide, but courts in Colorado and beyond still appear to hold biases in favor of mothers. One such change is the focus on the “child’s best interests” instead of older “tender years doctrines” that almost always favored mothers. For more information, seek the advice of a Fort Collins child custody attorney today.
How Do Courts Rule on Child Custody Cases?
Today, the doctrine of ruling in favor of the best interests of the child comes into play in all child custody cases. A judge hearing a child custody dispute will look at evidence of both parents’ abilities as caregivers and the potential risks they pose to the children in question. Gender should not factor into these determinations. Judges must also refrain from holding the parents’ past actions against them as long as they did not interfere with the child or caused harm to the child.
A judge will examine each parent’s work schedule, living arrangements, and other factors that may influence his or her ability to effectively parent the children. The judge will also consider what the children in the case have to say, to an extent. Parents can easily influence or intimidate younger children who cannot articulate their thoughts very well, but a judge may earnestly consider the wishes of a child around the age of 12 or older. The judge will likely also wish to hear from family members and friends of the family to determine which parent should receive primary custody.
If the children in the case already attend school, the judge will most likely decide to rule in whatever way helps the children maintain their routines. Judges very rarely want to uproot children and disrupt school schedules. Judges will not likely grant custody to a parent with a history of child or spousal abuse.
Hiring an Attorney
Each parent in a custody case should secure legal representation. If a judge is biased toward one parent or another due to preconceived notions or outdated gender stereotypes, a good attorney – one who has experience with gender bias in divorce – can help with this bias to ensure a fair determination based on the best interests of the children involved.
Each parent’s attorney will work on building a case for who should receive primary custody, what type of visitation schedule will exist between the parents, and any other considerations for special factors like travel, disabilities, extracurricular activities, and more. Fathers who have unjustly lost custody battles or those who are expecting a disagreement over child custody in the future should reach out to a reliable family law attorney as soon as possible. The right attorney can help a father build a strong case and help ensure the father becomes the primary custodian of the children if it is in the children’s best interests.
Posted in Child Custody on September 14, 2017
Of all legal proceedings, child custody arrangements are often the most contentious. Once established, however, they are legally binding unless amended by a judge. So what happens when a parent doesn’t honor the prearranged child custody schedule?
Issues Concerning Custodial Parents
It’s important to remember that a child custody arrangement is a court order. A custodial parent is considered to have breached this agreement when they don’t comply with the agreed upon schedule. If you have concerns about your child’s safety because of another parent’s noncompliance, you can take legal steps to remedy the issue. For example, you may be able to file an emergency motion, which can be used to adjust custody. In most cases, however, you’ll attempt to correct the situation by filing a motion to comply.
A Motion to Comply
A motion to comply is a notification by the court to the offending parent that they must adhere to the current custody arrangement. The difference between simply warning the breaching party, and a motion to comply, is that the latter has the power of the court behind it. A custodial parent may also file a motion to find the other parent in contempt of court. If after reviewing the facts of the case, the courts find the noncustodial parent in contempt, they will usually schedule a show-cause hearing. This gives the non-compliant parent the opportunity to tell their side of the story to a judge.
Penalties for Disobeying A Custody Arrangement
Violating a child custody arrangement usually results in more court dates, and these can prove costly. If a judge finds the non-compliant parent in contempt, the compliant parent may demand that the other parent reimburse legal fees incurred as a result. In addition, a judge may award more visitation time to the filing parent to compensate for time lost.
In rarer cases, a disobeying parent may be subject to criminal penalties, or even forfeit all custodial rights. Penalties may include fines or even jail time. These stricter penalties usually apply in only two scenarios: if the disobeying parent was attempting to block custody permanently, or if he or she moves a child to another state.
Unauthorized Travel Outside the State
Leaving state boundaries with the child, and violating a child custody agreement, may pose a threat to the child’s safety. Since custody laws vary so much from state to state, the Uniform Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act permits the state where the parent has traveled with the child to enforce an emergency order, which can return the child to the proper jurisdiction . In nearly every other instance, parents must use the same court that made the original custody order. This is the rare instance in which another court can make a ruling on an active custody case.
A violation of a child custody agreement is a serious matter. These are legally binding documents that outline an arrangement that the courts believe is in the child’s best interests. Refusing to act in accordance with this agreement could result in criminal penalties, fines, and even jail time. Custodial parents who are dealing with custody violations should seek the help of a Fort Collins family attorney.