Co-parenting with an ex isn’t easy—especially if they won’t abide by the custodial arrangement. In that situation, you have options.
For instance, a child custody attorney can send your ex a letter, asking them to follow the arrangement. You could also file a motion in court or attend mediation sessions. Seeking legal help can make these tasks easier. A lawyer can advocate for your child’s best interests and pursue a fair resolution.
Options When Your Ex Violates the Custody Agreement
When your ex doesn’t abide by the custody arrangement, you can:
1. Have Your Attorney Send Your Ex a Letter
Your attorney can write a strongly worded letter directed to your ex, informing them they need to abide by the custody arrangement. The attorney can describe the serious consequences your ex could face if they don’t follow the order. In some cases, this is all that needs to happen for someone to start abiding by a custody arrangement.
2. Contact the Applicable Government Agency
Each state has an agency that oversees child support and other family law matters. For instance, in Alabama, that agency is the Child Support Enforcement Division of the Department of Human Resources. This organization works to enforce child custodial arrangements. This organization can push your ex to follow the child custody order. Sometimes, this step alone can resolve the issue. If not, you have other options.
3. Attend Mediation Sessions
The family courts have mediators that help parents resolve their issues outside of litigation. If your ex does not abide by the court-ordered custody arrangement, a mediation session could help matters. Mediation is especially helpful when there are small children involved. Emotions usually run high when people discuss losing time with their kids. A mediator is an unbiased party who can help. Benefits of a mediator when there are child custody issues include:
- You have more control over the outcome. Once a case goes to court, the judge determines the custodial arrangement. Through mediation, on the other hand, you can create a plan tailored to your child’s specific needs.
- Mediation is less stressful for children. Through mediation sessions, the mediators teach the parents to focus more on the child’s well-being and less on underlying resentments. This, in turn, can help to create a better parent-child relationship. Mediation also prevents courtroom battles that can traumatize children.
- Mediation is cheaper than going to court. If child custody issues get resolved through mediation sessions, both parents can save money on court costs.
Mediation is a great consideration before moving forward with a court case. Although, if a court case is necessary, an attorney can represent you through that process.
4. File a Contempt Action
A court could find your ex in contempt for not complying with mandated custodial orders. Nobody wants to be in the court’s contempt. This can result in jail time, fines, and other penalties. If your ex doesn’t arrive at their contempt hearing, the courts could place a warrant for their arrest. If they are guilty of contempt, as noted, they could face serious consequences. An attorney can help during this process for the following reasons:
- They know how this process works.
- They have access to legal information to ensure the procedure happens smoothly.
- They know the process for the county you file the contempt of action order.
For any help with child custody arrangements, especially if you want to file a contempt of action, a family law attorney could benefit you.
5. Change the Custody Order
If a current custodial arrangement does not work out, you could modify the agreement. Here, you can make changes to:
- How often your ex pays child support
- How much time each parent spends with the child
- Who has primary custody
- The details of the child’s care
If your ex agrees to the modification, this could make it easier for them to comply. If not, you can pursue a child custodial modification in family law court.
In Some Instances, You Might Have to Call the Police
Your ex cannot violate the custodial agreement by keeping your child longer than they should. If that happens, you have grounds to call the police; you don’t have to file a motion and wait for a court date to arrive. There are several factors to think about before calling the police. They include:
- How late the parent drops off a child. If the parent is an hour late because of an unforeseen circumstance, such as traffic, this is not something worth calling the police over.
- The length of the child’s separation. In any instance, if you believe the other parent intends to keep their child for a long time outside of the custodial arrangement, it is imperative to call the police. In some cases, this constitutes kidnapping and can warrant criminal charges.
- Fears about the child’s safety. If you have any reason to believe that your ex is putting your child in danger, you have legal rights. You can call law enforcement to assess the situation. You could also file a report with Child Protective Services (CPS)
An attorney can determine when it is necessary to contact the police if your ex does not follow the child custody arrangement. If you have immediate fears about your child’s safety, act immediately and contact law enforcement; do not wait to get legal advice.
An Attorney Can Handle Your Custody Arrangement-Related Matters
If your ex doesn’t abide by the custody arrangement, an attorney can help. They can provide support and guidance, so you don’t have to go through this process alone. Consider how a family law lawyer could help you:
- They can write a letter to your ex explaining the custodial violation. A letter from an attorney can make someone feel obligated to follow an order. It also sets the groundwork in case you want to file a contempt action later.
- They can properly file a contempt action. If the courts accept the action, the lawyer can represent you through all necessary hearings.
- They can request a child custody modification. In this situation, you could work out an alternate arrangement with your ex that seeks to resolve any disputes.
From the moment you realize your ex isn’t going to abide by the custody agreement, you should consider legal help. An attorney can help you throughout the entire process, so you don’t have to deal with it alone.
How Else Can a Family Law Lawyer Help Me?
Tensions run high during custodial disputes—and you want an advocate in your corner. When you partner with an attorney, they can manage the basic tasks of your case, such as:
- Managing all communications with courtroom officials
- Creating a new custodial arrangement, if necessary
- Submitting all paperwork appropriately
- Advising you on your options
- Notifying your ex of any legal intentions
- Representing you in court
Your attorney wants an outcome that’s in your family’s best interest. You don’t have to wade through these dark legal waters alone. You can entrust your case to a professional who cares.
Frequently Asked Questions About Child Custodial Arrangements
As you consider legal help, you may have many questions buzzing through your head. The following answers seek to give peace of mind during this challenging period. You may ask:
Why Do People Disobey Custody Orders?
There are various reasons why people don’t follow child custody orders. First of all, one parent might disrespect the other, so they don’t make it a priority to return the child on time or to follow the orders in other aspects. Other reasons people don’t follow child custody orders include:
- A parent wants more time with their child. Your ex might believe you won’t follow through with legal action against them, so they keep the child longer than they should.
- A parent doesn’t want the other parent to have the child. Sometimes, the other parent doesn’t want their child to be with the other parent. They could feel that the child is unsafe in their charge—or they have issues with jealousy.
- A parent prioritizes other things. Your relationship with your ex ended. Yet, their obligation as a parent did not. If a parent chooses to prioritize other things (such as other relationships) over their child, they may not spend ample time with them. They may fail to pick the child up on time or miss special events.
Regardless of why people don’t follow custody orders, it is against the law. If a parent believes their child is unsafe in the other parent’s care, they have legal recourse.
What Can Breach a Child Custody Arrangement?
There are several things your ex could do that the courts could consider a breach of the child custody arrangement. Examples include:
- They regularly bring the child back later than agreed upon.
- They keep the child overnight when the custody arrangement does not include those terms.
- One parent turns the child against the other.
- One parent does not fulfill their child support obligations.
- One parent fails to spend time with the child.
There are countless ways in which a parent may violate a custodial arrangement. Still, when this happens, the court system provides legal options.
Can I Modify the Current Child Custody Agreement?
A child custody modification is when one or both parents want to make changes to the current child custody agreement. If both parents agree, the process of making the modification is fairly straightforward. If not, then the parents can go to court and file a modification request. A court may grant a modification because:
- There is a significant change in a parent’s income.
- There is a significant change in the circumstances of either parent. Examples could include a parent who moved out of state or whose disability impedes their parenting abilities.
- One parent has proven the other parent is unfit to have visitation rights.
- Circumstances have revealed the current child custody arrangement is not in the child’s best interest.
Once the courts grant the modification, the current child custody arrangement can change. It could take anywhere from a few weeks to a few months for the alterations to take effect.
Do I Need a Lawyer if My Ex Refuses to Follow the Custody Arrangement?
A lawyer can help if your ex does not follow a child custody agreement. An attorney can speak to your ex and explain the consequences of breaching the order. Sometimes, when something comes from an attorney, people listen. An attorney can also ensure you take the proper steps to get your ex to follow the order. Without an attorney, you could accidentally breach the arrangement as well, leaving you with less leverage if you end up going to court.
What if My Child Doesn’t Like the Current Custodial Arrangement?
Your child’s needs may change over time, compelling a change in the current custodial agreement. When this happens, you have similar options as if you wanted a change. You could:
- Attend mediation. Here, you, your ex, and your child could work out a new arrangement with the help of a third-party mediator. You could make changes to how long the child spends with one parent or other related terms.
- File a modification request. If mediation doesn’t work out, you can file a modification request and have a judge make a new arrangement.
You and your ex may work out an agreement without notifying the court system. While there’s nothing inherently wrong with this, you should notify the courts of the changes anyway. So, if there are any disputes later, you have the new arrangement documented. When you connect with a lawyer, they can notify the court of any changes to your custodial agreements.