Enforcement of Child Custody and Visitation Agreements
And Visitation Enforcement
New Jersey family courts are of the belief that it is in the best interest of every child to spend as much time as possible with both parents after a divorce or legal relationship dissolution. While this may not mean you share visitation with your children in a 50/50 manner, barring extraneous circumstances such as a domestic violence order or a relocation, both parents in a divorce can expect to share a fair amount of visitation time with their children.
However, just because you reach an agreement with your former partner regarding child custody doesn’t necessarily mean they will always uphold the terms of that agreement. There are several different actions which can be considered a violation of a child custody agreement, and parents facing such violations have a variety of options when it comes to enforcing their child custody and visitation agreement, or modifying it to reflect the current circumstances.
At Jacobs Berger, our attorneys have extensive experience helping parents to secure the child custody and visitation agreement which accurately reflects the best interests of their children and themselves as a parent, and enforce those agreements when not adhered to across Madison, Randolph, Tewksbury, Florham Park, Hanover, Morristown, and the greater Morris County area.
Contact our firm today to discuss your unique needs and concerns when it comes to your child custody agreement, or the enforcement of that child custody agreement in a confidential and comprehensive Strategic Planning Session today.
What Actions Are Considered a Violation of a Child Custody Agreement in Morris County?
There are several actions which can be considered a violation of a child custody agreement, some which may come as a surprise to you. These violations can include:
Refusing to Respect the Visitation Schedule
If one parent regularly drops children off or picks them up later than agreed, regularly schedules activities with your children during your visitation times, or keeps children overnight when they are not supposed to, this parent can be held in contempt of a child custody order.
Taking Children without Alerting the Other Parent
If a parent takes the children when they are not scheduled to have them, or worse, does so without alerting the other parent, this can also be considered a violation of a child custody order, and in extreme cases even constitute kidnapping charges!
Badmouthing of One Parent to the Children
Family courts frown very heavily upon one parent trying to poison the relationship of their children with the other parent. If your spouse is “badmouthing” you to your children, you may be able to modify your child custody order because of this.
Making Legal Choices without Authority
When parents create an initial child custody agreement, one or both parents will be granted “legal custody”. This refers to which parent(s) have the authority to make decisions for their children regarding things like religion, education, and medical care, and if one spouse begins making decisions for their children in these areas without having legal custody of the children, this is also considered a violation of the child custody agreement.
Harmful Personal Habits
As already noted, the primary consideration in any child custody issue is the best interests of the children involved. If a parent’s personal habits have the potential to cause harm to the child, for example smoking around the child, or abusing alcohol or drugs, then a court may find that it is no longer in the best interests of the child to spend as much time as they currently do with that parent.
If your co-parent is committing any of these potential violations, speak with our Madison child custody lawyers regarding your options for enforcing your child custody agreement, or modifying it in such a way that takes these violations and issues into account.
What Should I Do if My Ex is Violating Our Child Custody Agreement?
If your co-parent is violating the terms of your child custody and visitation agreement, there are several steps we recommend that you take, and several options available to you when it comes to enforcing and/or modifying your child custody agreement.
1. Speak with Your Co-Parent
In today’s busy world, obligations or issues may come up unexpectedly which can make it difficult to meet deadlines or schedules. If your co-parent is late, or misses a scheduled visitation time, it is certainly possible that something came up which caused them to do so. Be reasonable, discuss your concerns with your co-parent, and see if there is anything you can do together to address the issue(s) at hand.
2. Speak with Our Child Custody Attorneys
If the child custody violations are regular, or your co-parent refuses to communicate and work with you to address your concerns, our attorneys can help you in a number of different ways. If the situation calls for it, we may draft a formal letter to your co-parent alerting them to the potential for legal action, and this warning can often spur action and change. If they continue to refuse to cooperate, we can help you to file a motion with the courts and secure their assistance and intervention in the matter.
3. Keep a Detailed Record
If your co-parent is regularly violating the terms of your child custody agreement, it is important that you document these violations. What days did the violations occur? What kind of violation actually happened? What was said between you and your co-parent regarding these violations? This record will be an extremely useful source of evidence during any potential court action.
4. Modify Your Child Custody Agreement
Certain harmful actions such as the poisoning of a child’s relationship with the other parent, harmful personal habits, or even changes in schedule which limit the ability of a parent to abide by an existing child custody agreement can all call for a change to that agreement. Speak with our attorneys regarding how, and when, you may be able to modify your child custody agreement to more accurately reflect your family’s current circumstances.
5. File a Motion for Contempt
If you and your child custody lawyer cannot resolve the situation through mediation or negotiations, it may become necessary to file a motion for contempt with the courts. Contempt basically means that a person is refusing to abide by court orders, in this case a child custody and visitation agreement. If found guilty, a person can face fines and sanctions, and in the case of repeat offenses even jail time.
6. Call the Police
While calling the police when your co-parent is in the process of violating a child custody order is certainly an option, you should take a great deal of discretion when pursuing this option. Doing so can greatly taint whatever working relationship you have with your co-parent and may also backfire on you in situations where the violation is very minor (being 30 minutes late to a meeting for example). However, in situations where your co-parent may be taking your children out-of-state without the legal authority to do so, or is several hours late to a drop-off time and you cannot reach them, or your children, then calling the police is a very real, and valid option. If you find it necessary to do so, make sure to have a certified copy of your child custody agreement on hand.
As you can see, you have a wide variety of options available to you when your co-parent violates your child custody order. With that being said, possibly the most important step during such a situation is to speak with experienced legal counsel regarding your options, your rights, and how to best go about enforcing and/or modifying your child custody agreement.
Contact Our Child Custody Enforcement Attorneys Today
At Jacobs Berger, our attorneys have over 45 years of combined experience helping parents to draft, modify, and enforce child custody and visitation agreements of all kinds throughout New Jersey.
The unique approach of our law firm focuses on finding constructive solutions that protect your relationship with your children, your relationship with your co-parent, and the financial stability of your family. By helping you to find reasonable and accurate solutions to your divorce issues of child custody, child support, division of assets, and spousal support, during your divorce, we help you to avoid the necessity of modifications to those orders down the road.
However, we also understand that situations change, and individuals may not always adhere to the agreements reached during their divorce negotiations, and with this in mind, we are also prepared to help you through the entire modification or enforcement process, and ensure that your legal rights, parental rights, and financial future are properly taken into account, secured moving forward, and respected by the courts and your co-parent.
To speak with our family law firm today in a comprehensive and confidential Strategic Planning Session regarding your child custody and visitation agreement, a modification to that agreement, or your options for enforcing that agreement when it is not being adhered to, please contact us online, or through our Morristown, NJ office at (973) 354-4551.