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What If A Parent Doesn’t Honor A Child Custody Schedule?


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.

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