What to Do if Your Ex Violates the Child Custody Agreement
Child custody arrangements can be established as part of a divorce or as a separate court proceeding. Even if you reached your own agreement on child custody with your ex rather than having the court decide, once that agreement is incorporated into a court order it has the power of law. Neither you nor your ex has the right to unilaterally disregard the arrangement ordered by the court.
In reality, unfortunately, many people violate the terms of a custody agreement. If your ex keeps your kids too long, takes them on trips without your consent, or otherwise violates the terms of your custody agreement, what can you do? Continue reading for advice on how to respond to custody violations, and call an experienced child custody attorney at the Union Law Offices of John B. D’Alessandro for help.
Talk to the Other Parent
If the custody violation is minor–such as failing to return or pick up a child on time–your first step should be to talk to the other parent. If you are not comfortable talking to them on your own, given your relationship, you can ask your lawyer to talk to them or their attorney on your behalf. It’s best to resolve matters out of court where possible.
If the matter is graver–your ex is exposing your child to criminal activity, committing domestic violence or abuse, or otherwise putting your child in danger–you should skip this step and get your children to safety as soon as possible.
Document the Violations
If your ex is repeatedly violating the custody order, it’s time to plan for a possible court battle. Keep track of their violations. Write down when they miss a deadline (e.g., the time they should have dropped off the kids and the time they actually did so), take a trip without your consent, or otherwise violate the order. Write down what they say and what you say about the situation. Keep copies of any texts, emails, or voicemails between you and your ex that refer to their violations.
Get a Lawyer
If you haven’t already, it’s time to talk to a seasoned child custody attorney. Your attorney will help you put a stop to the violations, either by discussing the matter with the other parent or by petitioning the court to enforce the custody order. They’ll help you build and prove your case that your ex is not holding up their end of the bargain and show how their actions are hurting you and your children.
Petition the Court for Enforcement
If your ex is violating your custody order, you have the right to seek enforcement through the courts. The court has a number of options for enforcement and wide discretion to tailor the remedy to the situation at hand. The court may, for example:
- Order additional compensatory time for missed visits
- Limit or eliminate your ex’s custody rights per the custody order
- Adjust child support obligations
- Order specific means for pick-ups and drop-offs, including doing so in a public place or with a monitor
- Place your ex in contempt of court, with the potential for fines, community service, and/or jail time for refusing to comply with a court order
Talk to your custody lawyer about your options. Your attorney will know how best to protect your parental rights and your family.
Don’t Take Matters Into Your Own Hands
We can’t stress this enough: When it comes to custody violations, do not fight fire with fire. Do not start taking the kids on your own trips without permission, refuse to pay child support, or otherwise violate your obligations and limitations concerning child custody. Violating the custody order on your end can land you in just as much legal hot water as your ex. You can wind up owing fines, losing out on your custody rights, or even facing jail time. Talk to your family law attorney and go through the proper channels to seek enforcement of your custody order.
Call a Seasoned New Jersey Divorce Lawyer for Practical Advice and Effective Representation
If you’re considering divorce, or if you’re dealing with issues involving financial disclosures, equitable division of property, alimony/spousal support, child support, or other family law matters in New Jersey, contact the diligent and successful Union family law attorney John B. D’Alessandro for a consultation.