Violation of Visitation Orders

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 What is Violation of a Visitation Order?

A visitation order is a legal arrangement endorsed by a court that enables a parent, typically the non-custodial parent, to visit or temporarily have their child stay with them.

Violation of a visitation order happens when either party neglects to adhere to the terms specified in the court-approved child custody/visitation order or fails to comply with the court-approved visitation order without first attempting to modify it in court by filing a petition or adhering to the jurisdiction’s requirements.

Legal consequences may occur due to the potential endangerment of the child’s safety or well-being due to such violations. A court may impose criminal fines even if no harm befalls the child.

Violation of a visitation order is distinct from the violation of an informal visitation agreement. The former may lead to more severe legal repercussions compared to the latter, as court-approved visitation orders are legally enforceable.

What are Some Ways to Violate a Visitation Order?

There are numerous methods through which visitation orders can be violated. A court may perceive any action not explicitly authorized by a visitation order as a violation, regardless of the extent of the deviation.

Although regulations may vary from one state to another, possible violations include:

  • Overstaying a visit with the child: If a visitation order states that the non-custodial parent can visit their child from 10 am to 4 pm on Saturdays and the parent remains with the child until 6 pm, they may be violating the visitation order.
  • Failing to drop off or pick up the child at the predetermined place or time: If a visitation order specifies that the custodial parent should drop off the child at 9 am on Sundays, and they fail to do so, they may be in violation of the visitation order.
  • Attempting to alter the visitation schedule without the court’s authorization: If the non-custodial parent requests to change or modify the visitation schedule without the court’s authorization, they may be violating the order.
  • Allowing an unauthorized person to pick up the child: If a visitation order mandates that only the non-custodial parent can pick up the child and allow an unauthorized person to do so, they may be violating the visitation order.
  • Attempting to visit or contact the child outside the times listed in the visitation order: If a visitation order specifies that the non-custodial parent can visit their child only on weekends, attempting to contact or visit the child outside of these times may be a violation of the visitation order.
  • Denying a parent their visitation rights according to the order: If a visitation order states that the non-custodial parent can visit their child for specific periods and the custodial parent denies them their visitation rights without a valid reason, they may be in violation of the visitation order.

In some instances, legitimate reasons may necessitate changes to the visitation schedule:

  • Change in work schedule: If a non-custodial parent’s work schedule changes, they may not be able to adhere to the existing visitation schedule, necessitating a modification of the order.
  • Change in the child’s school schedule: If a child’s school schedule changes, it may conflict with the existing visitation schedule, requiring a modification of the order.
  • Relocation: If either parent relocates, modifying the visitation order to accommodate the location change may be necessary.
  • Medical or health issues: If the child has medical or health issues that require additional attention, it may be necessary to modify the visitation order to accommodate the child’s needs.
  • Safety concerns: If there are safety concerns such as domestic violence, abuse, or neglect, a modification of the visitation order may be necessary to protect the child’s welfare.

In such cases, the concerned party or parties should file to modify the visitation order rather than attempting to change it without the court’s knowledge or oversight.

What Should a Parent Do If the Other Parent Violates the Custody Order?

If one parent violates the custody order, the non-violating parent can take action against the offender.

The first step is to document the violation(s) by recording any actions that deviate from the court-ordered visitation.

Armed with the visitation order and documentation of the violating behavior, the non-violating parent can:

  • File a police report
  • Contact a dedicated child abduction unit within many district attorney’s offices
  • File a court motion requesting changes to the existing visitation order
  • File a court motion seeking the issuance of sanctions against the violating parent
  • File for contempt of court

What are the Consequences of Violation of Visitation Orders?

Regardless of the parents’ amicability, legal consequences may arise when a visitation order is violated. The court enforces such orders, and even when a violation occurs with the perceived consent of the other parent, the court may still impose negative consequences.

Legal repercussions of violating a visitation order can include the following:

  • Contempt of court
  • Criminal consequences, such as fines or jail time (usually occurring as a result of repeated visitation order violations)
  • Potential negative impact on the violating party’s current or future child custody

Courts tend to be less lenient with parents who have repeatedly violated child custody orders than first-time violators.

Could Violating a Custody Order Lead to Complete Loss of Child Custody?

Yes, a single violation or a series of violations of a visitation order can result in the violating parent completely losing custody of the child.

A court may determine that such violations indicate that the child could be in danger due to the visitation. This assessment could lead to a denial of visitation rights, as family courts are mandated to make decisions based on the child’s best interests.

In extreme cases, the court may decide it is in the child’s best interest to revoke the violating parent’s custody rights entirely and grant sole custody to the other parent.

Parents must abide by visitation orders and avoid any actions construed as a violation. If a legitimate reason arises for modifying the visitation order, follow the appropriate legal channels and seek the court’s approval before making any changes to the established arrangements. By doing so, parents can minimize the risk of adverse legal consequences and ensure that the child’s best interests remain the primary focus.

Do I Need a Lawyer for Violation of a Visitation Order?

If you are worried about a possible violation of child custody/visitation rights, you should immediately consult with a child visitation lawyer. A lawyer can guide you on the appropriate steps and even represent you in court during formal hearings.

LegalMatch is an online legal services platform that can connect you with experienced child visitation lawyers in your area who can assist you with your case. By filling out a brief questionnaire on the platform, you can be matched with attorneys with the necessary expertise and experience to handle your case effectively.

LegalMatch provides a free initial consultation with the matched attorney, allowing you to discuss your case and ask any questions. This consultation is an opportunity to determine whether the attorney fits your needs and whether you feel comfortable working with them.

Use LegalMatch to help you quickly and easily connect with qualified child visitation lawyers who can assist you with your case and protect your rights.

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