One of the biggest questions in a child custody case is "Who will get custody and visitation rights?" The answer to this crucial question can be complicated. Once settled, things don't always go smoothly. This article answers some of the most common questions concerning visitation interference and custody interference issues, with links to additional information.
Frequently Asked Questions
My ex has physical custody of our kids. I am always very prompt in sending my support check, but lately I've been feeling that I don't have enough time with my kids. Is it a good idea to stop paying my child support as a way to force my ex into giving me more visitation?
No, it is not a good idea. In fact, it could backfire and result in you having less or no time with your children. Visitation and child support don't have anything to do with each other from a legal standpoint, and a judge would probably come down on you hard for withholding your support.
Try having a civil conversation with your ex about having more time with your kids. If that doesn't work, you can request a modification of the visitation schedule in court.
Joint physical custody is another option if you and your ex don't live too far apart. Courts will only grant this option if it won't harm the children and if the parents demonstrate that they can work together.
Our visitation order clearly states that my ex must pick up our daughter at a certain time on a certain day each week, but they are consistently late and sometimes don't bother to show up at all. This is very hard on our daughter, and it often interferes with my life as well. Can I do anything about this?
The first step (as it usually is) is to talk to your ex and get an understanding for the reasons why they're late or a no-show. If it is a job or family responsibilities that are the cause, you may be able to fix the problem with a few simple schedule changes.
If there is no valid reason and you can't work out a solution, you can ask a judge to enforce or change the visitation order. You should create a list of all the times your ex shows up late or doesn't show up at all so you have some documentation of the problem. The court will definitely be more interested in how the situation is affecting your daughter than how it is inconveniencing you, so make sure to focus on her rather than on yourself.
I have joint legal custody of my son with my ex. Every time we have to make a decision about our son's religion, healthcare or education my ex fights me tooth and nail. I feel that my ex is just trying to be difficult -- do I have to consult my ex about these things? Is it considered custody interference?
Sharing legal custody can present a wide range of problems, especially when the relationship between the former spouses has deteriorated. As tough as it may be, though, you still need to keep your ex in the loop when it comes to these decisions, as you may violate a court order if you keep them in the dark. If your ex challenges your unilateral decision-making in court, a judge could end up awarding them sole legal custody, so it's better to comply with the terms of the original order until it can be modified.
As always, you should try as hard as you can to work it out amongst yourselves. Try to get inside your ex's head and figure out why they obstructs these decisions. Perhaps they feel that they don't have enough visitation with your son. If so, a few more visits might resolve the issue.
I have joint legal and physical custody of my children with my ex-spouse. They never seem to do anything to help with chores or scheduling, so I end up doing all the laundry, shopping and planning. How can I get them to pull their weight?
First, examine the situation and see if there's a reason why your ex hasn't helped out with these responsibilities. They might have personal or work issues that prevent them from doing all that they should. They may not even realize that you feel this way.
Talk to your ex and ask them to help out. If that doesn't work, send them a cordial letter via certified mail listing the parental duties and requesting that they take over some of them. If they do not respond or start pitching in within two or three weeks, you may have to go to court to change anything.
Also think about asking a mediator to step in. Impartial mediators can really help a situation like this. Sometimes an outside voice repeating what you've already said can get the desired results.
I've had sole physical custody of my son for his entire life. My-ex recently promised him a car if my son comes to live with my ex. Can I fight this in any way?
Before you try to fight the move, ask yourself if it could actually be a good choice for your son.
If you still object to the switch, it's within your rights to prevent your son from leaving. If you choose to do so, however, your ex could go to court and ask for a change in the custody order. When children get older, judges will generally give greater weight to their preferences. That doesn't mean that a judge will rubber-stamp your son's wish to go live with your ex, but it does make it more likely that the judge will allow your son to make his own choice.
Remember not to badmouth your ex based on your personal feelings about them, but if you think your ex is a danger to your son in any way you should explain this to both your son and the court.
You could also avoid court altogether by trying to reach a compromise. Increased visitation might satisfy your ex while allowing you to retain custody of your son.
Over spring break, my ex took our kids on a trip, but didn't tell me where they were going. Is there anything I can do to make sure I know of future vacation plans ahead of time?
That's a difficult question. Unless your custody and visitation arrangement states otherwise, your ex can take the kids wherever they want as long as the trip doesn't place the children in any danger. And yet it is probably in the children's best interest that you know where they are going in case an emergency comes up.
Ask your ex to give you information about any future vacation plans. Explain that you want to know for safety purposes, not to hinder the plans in any way. If they do not provide the information in a few days, send a certified letter that politely repeats your request. You may want to send a copy to your ex's attorney -- a lawyer can usually convince a client to cooperate, if only to help their case should the matter go to court.
If you still don't receive a response you can file an "order to show cause" demanding that your ex appear in court and list the reasons why they shouldn't have to disclose the vacation plans to you. It is likely that a judge will order your ex to tell you the plans.
My ex often returns the kids late after the scheduled visitation. I'm worried my ex may be thinking of not returning them at all one day. Is there anything I can do?
It might be possible to clear everything up by talking to your ex about the tardiness. Your ex might not know that their actions have caused you so much worry; and may not understand how the courts look upon this kind of visitation interference or irregularity.
If your ex does fail to return the kids, their actions break both criminal and civil law, and also violate the custody and visitation orders that you have in place. At this point, the police can step in to recover the children, and they can charge your ex with kidnapping. You can also sue for damages.
My ex has sole physical custody of our kids, but I have visitation on alternating weekends. My ex just told me of plans to take a job across the country, however, which would mean that I could only afford to see my kids every few months. What can I do?
Unfortunately, there isn't an easy answer for this question. State law controls, and states differ greatly when it comes to relocation issues. Some states protect the non-custodial parent's right to maintain an ongoing relationship with their children, while other states protect the custodial parent's right to relocate for employment or family reasons.
Try to reason with your ex by explaining your desire to keep seeing your children regularly and laying out your financial limitations. If this doesn't work, you should probably consult with your attorney to learn more about the laws in your state.
I have an infant child, and the child's father has visitation rights every other weekend. He lives in a tiny apartment that isn't baby-safe and doesn't have the necessary items, like a crib, stroller or infant tub. Can I prevent the visits?
It's best to comply with visitation order, lest you commit visitation interference, anger a judge, and risk having to give up some of your custodial rights. You can provide what the baby needs, and you can also firmly suggest that the father purchase the necessary supplies. Unless the visitation order explicitly states that the father must buy certain items, however, he isn't legally required to do so.
Consider going back to court to modify the visitation order. Judges will usually require parents to have all reasonable items for the care of the baby.
If you still have questions, FindLaw's Answers child custody forum is specifically devoted to child custody and support issues.
Facing Child Custody or Visitation Interference? Get Legal Help Today
Some custody or visitation questions are very case specific and can't be easily summarized or answered. What's more, the answer to questions like moving a child from a home state (or even county) vary by jurisdiction. If you're dealing with custody or visitation interference, or have related concerns, consider speaking with a family law attorney near you to see how the law can help.