Although every parent wants what is best for his or her children, it is an unfortunate reality that at some point during the children’s lives, the parents will disagree about what is best. This is true for couples who are still together, and the issues are often compounded for divorced or separated parents. On some occasions, these disagreements may culminate in one parent refusing custody or parenting time to the other parent. The appropriate next steps can vary widely.
The first question to answer is whether there is a court order. If there is no court order governing custody or parenting time, then there is nothing for a court to enforce. An agreement between the parties, even if signed or notarized is not a binding document when it comes to child custody. It may be good evidence of what the parties have historically done or intended should be done with regard to parenting time, but an agreement between the parties is not enforceable like a court order.
If there is a court order and the other parent is denying you your parenting time or custody, it is important to determine if the other parent disagrees with you about the interpretation of the parenting schedule or if the other parent is just refusing to comply with the order. In other words, is the other parent refusing to return the child because he or she reasonably believes that under the order it is still his or her parenting time? Or does the other parent recognize that it is time to return the child but simply refuses to do so? If the former, the easiest way to handle the problem may very well be to contact your attorney in order to help hammer out the meaning of the parenting schedule order to avoid future misunderstandings. If the latter, it may be necessary to file a motion for contempt. A motion for contempt tells the trial court that the other parent is willfully disregarding the provisions of the parenting schedule. This motion may ask for varying types of relief, ranging from immediate return of the child, attorney’s fees, compensatory parenting time, and/or money sanctions. Moreover, if one parent repeatedly refuses to abide by the court ordered parenting schedule that may eventually lead to grounds to have the parenting schedule or legal custody modified. For cases that are sufficiently egregious, interference with the other parent’s parenting time could even lead to criminal charges.
We have extensive experience with helping our clients deal with another parent who refuses to abide by a custody order. Call us at(732) 479-4711, and we can discuss how to handle future problems with the other parent, and whether further action should be taken