Consequences for Violation of Custody Orders

Parenting harmoniously after divorce or separation is challenging, especially when the other parent is not particularly meticulous about adhering to the order. A parent’s refusal to go by the orders of the court can provide not just a source of frustration and strife, but can ultimately have a negative impact on the children. The courts have extensive enforcement powers when one or both parents refuse to observe the provisions of the order, including civil and even criminal penalties.

One place in the New Jersey code detailing the repercussions and enforcement powers of the family court in these types of cases is New Jersey Court rule 5:3-7. Subsection (a) provides for numerous sanctions available to the court when penalizing a parent who has violated a custody order. These repercussions include: 1) compensatory, or “make up” time with the children for the time a parent missed out on; 2) economic sanctions for the non-violating parent; 3) modification of the current pick-up or drop-off arrangements; 4) counseling for the parents and/or the children at the expense of the violating parent; 5) community service for the violating parent; 6) incarceration; 7) issuance of an arrest warrant; and 8) any other remedy the court may find to be fair or equitable. The essence of this rule is trying to recognize that the violating parent should be responsible for whatever negative repercussions are suffered by the non-offending parent or the children. For example, if the violating parent was keeping the children from the other parent, then the non-violating parent could be awarded time to make-up for the time lost due to the violating parent’s behavior.

Clearly the types of sanctions available to the court are broad, especially noting that the court may levy any type of other sanction not listed that it finds to be “equitable.” However, it is important to note that courts will typically reserve these punishments for repeated violations. The violation typically must also be willful. In other words, if one parent occasionally shows up late for the child exchange, this will probably not be enough for a court to use the penalties available in rule 5:3-7. The non-violating parent must be able to show that the violating parent is doing so on purpose, and with full knowledge that his or her actions is in violation of the court order.

in helping our clients deal with a former spouse or partner who refuses to cooperate or abide by a custody order. Contact us today at (732) 529-6937 for an appointment to talk about your case and your child.

About the Author


John Nachlinger is a co-founder and managing attorney of Netsquire, a family law firm focused on streamlining divorces through effective mediation, settlement drafting, and court filing assistance. As a New Jersey Supreme Court Certified Matrimonial Law Attorney and Qualified Mediator, John guides couples toward equitable agreements without the cost and stress of litigation.

Recognized as a New Jersey Super Lawyer for over a decade, John’s client-focused approach aims to foster understanding during challenging transitions. With a background spanning top law journals, judicial clerkships, and boutique family law firms, John now applies his analytical skills to create workable solutions for all parties. His mediation services reshape the divorce journey by prioritizing compassion and compromise.

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