Contempt of Court for Child Custody
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What Is Child Custody?
Child custody allows a parent the right to make legal and medical decisions on behalf of the child. The courts decide custody. Custody could be joint custody in which parents share custody of the child. Custody could also be sole custody in which one parent cares for the child.
When determining custody, the court looks at a variety of different factors:
- Whether a custody agreement exists
- The parents’ desires regarding custody
- The child’s desires
- The ability of each parent to mentally, emotionally, and physically care for the child
- Whether changes will be made to the child’s school, daycare, after-school programs, or other activities that are location-specific
- Any history of abuse or neglect
What Happens When My Ex Violates the Custody Order?
Violating a custody order is breaking the law. The custody order is a court order, and both parents are bound by this order. When a parent violates the custody order, there are legal ramifications.
The most common form of violation occurs when a parent is late to either pick up or drop off the child. This disrupts the child’s schedule and causes undue stress and anxiety. The divorce process alone is difficult enough for a child, but a parent then failing to meet their obligations or arguing with the other parent in front of the child can be very traumatic.
Another violation occurs when the parent fails to show for the exchange. This may be due to negligence such as forgetting the date. However, often times, one parent decides run off with the child or take a vacation with the child without the court’s permission.
What Should I Do If My Ex Violates a Custody Order?
First, consider whether police action is necessary. If you believe your ex has kidnapped your child, call 911 immediately. The local authorities need to get involved to find your child and bring him or her home safely. If your ex crosses state lines, the FBI may also get involved.
If the situation is not an emergency, you can try to work things out with your ex-spouse. However, this can prove to be an unwise decision. The ex may try to continue to take advantage of you in the future by continuously breaking the custody order. This will cause further stress for your child.
The best course of action is to file a motion for contempt.
What Is Contempt of Court?
A motion for contempt of court in a child custody case alleges simply that the ex violated the court’s custody order by doing or failing to do something. You must serve the motion on your ex, and the ex will then be given a limited amount of time to respond.
A hearing will be set, and at the hearing, you will argue your motion for contempt of court. Make sure you gather information, documentation, and evidence to prove that your ex had violated the custody order. You may also choose to call any witnesses to testify at the hearing.
It is recommended you have someone watch your child for you while you attend court to avoid your child being traumatized by the contentious court proceedings.
Two kinds of contempt exist: civil contempt and criminal contempt. Criminal contempt occurs when a party misbehaves in the courtroom, such as yelling or acting violent.
Civil contempt occurs when a party fails to obey a judge’s order. A violation of a judge’s order will result in a finding of civil contempt, and the party will be sanctioned. Sanctions can include:
- Giving sole custody to the other parent
- Reducing visitation
- Requiring court-supervised visitation
- Jail time
Do I Need a Lawyer for a Child Custody Contempt of Court Issue?
A motion for contempt is similar to a trial. Evidence and witness testimony can be presented. In many states, the evidence must be submitted using the rules of evidence, and the witnesses must be examined under direct and cross. Only a trained family law attorney will know how to properly conduct a motion for contempt of court hearing.
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Last Modified: 04-29-2015 11:52 AM PDT
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