A custody order is a legal obligation that must be obeyed. While most people comply with court orders without issue, some decide to go against the law and make decisions that violate legal requirements. If your ex-spouse substantially breaches a custody order or repeatedly makes minor infractions, you have legal rights. Discuss your options for enforcing a custody order with an attorney in Colorado for assistance.
First, consider whether or not you should involve the police. If you do not know where your child is, cannot get in touch with your ex-spouse, suspect parental kidnapping or believe that your child is in imminent danger of bodily harm, call 911 immediately. The police can take down a report, help you locate your child and file criminal charges against your ex. If your ex is convicted of a crime such as child endangerment or parental abduction, this can lead to a change in your custody order, as well – allowing you to better protect your child and your rights.
File a Motion With the Courts
Whether or not you need to involve the police, most attorneys recommend filing a motion with the courts for a violation of a custody agreement. Tell the courts that your ex-spouse is not complying with the terms of a court order by filing a Motion to Enforce. Issues with custody agreements are typically expedited, meaning that the courts will hear your case sooner rather than later.
With a Motion to Enforce, the courts can hold your coparent accountable for breaching the terms of a custody order or denying visitation. A judge may be able to help you by reaffirming your parental responsibilities, giving you extra time with your child for missed visitation or days of custody, fining your ex-spouse for the violation, and/or requiring your ex to give you financial compensation for your related legal fees. A Motion to Enforce is the most common legal remedy for a violated custody order.
Modify the Custody Agreement
If the violation was an isolated incident, it is not likely that the courts will get involved. However, if the incident was severe – such as taking the child out of state without permission – or a parent is guilty of repeat violations, then the courts may grant a request to modify the custody agreement. You or your attorney can file a request to amend your child custody agreement, such as decreasing the violating party’s parenting time. The courts may accept your request if they believe it is in the best interests of your child.
File a Motion for Contempt
You may also have grounds to file a Motion for Contempt. This is a motion requesting that the courts penalize your ex-spouse for failing to fulfill a custody order. If the courts find the violating party in contempt of court, he or she may face repercussions such as a fine or even jail time. However, filing a Motion to Enforce or modifying the custody agreement are generally preferred remedies over a Motion for Contempt.
What Not to Do
Just as it is important to know what to do if your ex is violating a custody order, it is also important to know what not to do. For example, do not retaliate against your ex-spouse by withholding child support. Child support and child custody are two separate orders. If you stop paying child support, you will still be held responsible for the full amount of your obligation, including your missed payments.
It is also important not to take matters into your own hands. Having a civilized conversation with your ex-spouse about meeting the terms of your custody agreement can be a productive way to resolve the dispute. However, resorting to threats, violence or “stealing” your child back can do more harm than good – including causing your child emotional distress. Remain calm and remind yourself that there are effective legal outlets to help you successfully resolve the situation. Then, contact an attorney for professional assistance.