Consequences for Violating a Parenting Order / by Cassandra Hearn

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Parents always want what is best for their children.  They work hard to make sure that their children are safe, healthy, and happy.  During a divorce or custody case, a court will enter an order providing for custody and visitation.  This order will be determined by looking at what is in a child’s best interest.  Sometimes this order works well and the parents are able to understand its terms and cooperate for years to come.  Unfortunately, that is not always the case, and in some situations, a parent will end up violating the court order.  There can be serious consequences and repercussions for violating a court-ordered parenting plan.

Violation of a custody order is usually met with a request from the innocent parent that the violating parent be held in contempt, or that the violating parent’s custody time be reduced or even terminated.  The innocent parent will need to demonstrate not only that the other parent violated the order, but that the violation was also intentional.  For example, if the court order states that the violating parent must return the child at 5:00 pm on Friday but does not return the child until 6 p.m. on Saturday, that could be an intentional violation, as there was no ambiguity in the language.  However, if the failure to return the child on time was due to extenuating circumstances, such as weather so bad that it was unsafe to drive, then the court may not find that the violation was intentional.  

If the court finds one parent is in contempt, there are several ways that may be dealt with.  It is possible, although not common, that the parent could serve jail time for refusal to abide by the court order.  It is more common that the violating parent will have to give up some or all of his or her parenting time to make up for the refusal to return the child, or other punishment that directly addresses the violation.

If there are repeated and flagrant violations of the order, the innocent parent may file for a modification of the existing order.  The refusal to abide by the current order can be used against the violating parent and the court may reduce his or her parenting time, or even eliminate unsupervised time all together if the violations are severe.

If you have questions about your rights under your custody order, call us today for an appointment at 619-800-0384.  We can review your order with you and talk about how we can help you achieve your goals for your child.