Sometimes, a marriage or relationship ends badly. If children are involved, however, the parents must still communicate and cooperate to some degree, but child custody arrangements don't always go according to plan. Custodial interference by a parent is one of the major problems that may arise after divorce or breakup.
Here you will find tips on what to do if the other parent doesn't fulfill his or her obligations under your parenting agreement or violates a court order related to custody or visitation. This section also includes information on out-of-state moves in child custody situations, parental abduction, and more.
Interference with Custody or Visitation
One of the biggest child custody problems is interference. This occurs when one or both of the parents intentionally disobeys the visitation schedule, fails to exchange the child at the agreed-upon dates, or otherwise fails to live up to the parenting agreement. Sometimes this is done in order to retaliate against the other parent or simply to extend (or limit) one's time with the child. Since a parenting agreement carries the force of law as a court order, failure to follow its directions can lead to civil contempt charges.
Interference can happen with custody or visitation, by either parent. But not all interference is considered a violation of the court order. For example, protecting a child from danger; being late because of bad road conditions, or other such circumstances, or honoring previous agreements that deviate from the parenting plan (such as a summer trip) are generally okay. The best practice is to have such agreements in writing, such as through text messages. Many parenting plans will contemplate issues like vacations or school breaks.
Types of Custodial Interference
There are countless examples of custodial interference, but here are some of the more common ways in which it may occur:
- Refusing to exchange a child with the other parent
- Limiting the child's telephone or online contact with the other parent
- Intentionally failing to return the child at the predetermined time
- Visiting the child during the other parent's scheduled time with the child
Child Custody and Relocation
It's sometimes necessary for one or both parents to move out of the area after separating, often for work or for more affordable housing. This presents a problem for child custody arrangements. Relocation is okay as long as the parents have signed a relocation agreement and subsequent changes in the parenting plan.
But if there is a dispute over the move, the court will need to step in to decide whether the relocation is in the best interests of the child. Under the Fourteenth Amendment, the court cannot restrict an adult's ability to move. However, the court can restrict whether the child can make such a move and modify parenting plans accordingly.
Often, the original child custody arrangement and parenting plan will stipulate whether relocation is allowed. Some states require the moving parent to provide advance written notice of an intended move to the non-moving parent. If a parent has sole legal custody, they are able to decide for the child to relocate, but if there's opposition from the other parent, the noncustodial parent can file to modify custody and/or their parenting plan with the court. States have different ways of determining whether relocation is appropriate in child custody cases and the terms for doing so; talk to an attorney for more details.
Actual, physical time spent with parents cannot be replaced. But family courts are increasingly offering "virtual visitation" as the next-best thing under certain circumstances. A virtual visitation is one that uses video conferencing (such as Skype) or other such methods to provide the parent and child a chance to connect.
In fact, virtual visitation is one way to help children stay connected to their parent who either lives far away, are traveling, or are otherwise unable to meet the child in person.
Get Child Custody Help from a Lawyer
Child custody cases can be difficult to navigate. An experienced family law attorney can help review your claim and the applicable laws in your state. They can also help explore your options with you.
Get started by speaking to a child custody lawyer today.