Child Custody Enforcement
Once a custody agreement has been finalized, it becomes a court order and, thus, can and will be enforced by law. This means that both parents must abide by that order, regardless of the reasoning they think they may have for acting against it. Just because a child states that they’d rather stay with one parent that day doesn’t mean that the parent has the right to act on that whim. Should they want to act outside of that order, they should, instead of breaking the court order, have the custody agreement modified (once I write a Custody Modification article, have this phrase hyperlink to it).
When a parent begins to act outside of the custody arrangement or is accused of acting outside of the order, things can go downhill very quickly. For that reason, it’s advisable to have a skilled lawyer on hand to contact if need be. There are things that you can do to prevent an issue or, if one occurs, expedite its rectification: First, make sure the court order is crystal clear and detailed, explaining where each parent lives, where the children will spend each holiday, how religious affiliations might affect it, birthdays, et cetera. You can never be too thorough! If any changes are made to the order, make sure they’re noted. Having a good lawyer on your side when you make the original agreement is certainly wise (hyperlink to your child custody article, here). Second, make sure all parties involved have a copy of the visitation and custody orders in a safe place that they can quickly access. If any third parties are involved (say, if you exchange the children at someone’s house), be certain they have copies, as well. Third, keep a detailed journal with dates and times, indicating how long they were with the other parent, when each exchange happened, and any aberrations or actions that seem opposed to the custody order (times the parent refused to show up, inebriated states, et cetera.)
If you seriously fear risk of abduction by the other parent, then you should be more thorough. Keep a list of addresses and phone numbers of any relatives and friends of the other parent. Keep a detailed description of any relevant information about them and the children; physical description, drivers’ license and the like. Lastly, have recent photographs of the children on-hand.
No matter how good a lawyer is, they cannot turn back the clock and give you this information. Make sure you have a skilled lawyer on-hand, and keep track of this information!
Should one parent violate or be accused of violating the custody order, there are a myriad of consequences. These can range from community service and the court stepping in to enforce the order, to being charged with kidnapping, a felony that carries serious jail time. But, taking the issue to court is extremely complicated. If one parent is found to be falsely accusing the other, there can be punishments levied on them for abuse of the court system. Regardless of what side you’re on, you’ll want a skilled, aggressive lawyer at your back.
By Connor Douglas Johnson