When parents are separated, questions arise regarding each parent's possession of and access to the children. If the parents can't agree on possession issues, a Court order is usually obtained, which provides for custody and specific visitation rights for the so-called "non-custodial" parent. When the custodial parent does not comply with the visitation order, the non-custodial parent has the legal right to enforce the visitation rights in Court. Today's blog post will address the important remedies that may be sought in Court.
contempt of court
The non-custodial parent should document all violations of the Court order. When a pattern of non-compliance develops, with no reasonable justification (i.e. illness, vehicle malfunction, family emergencies, etc.), the non-custodial parent may seek a Court order enforcing the violation by contempt. Contempt is a powerful tool. If the Judge finds that the parent has, in fact, violated the order, the Judge can find the parent in contempt and sentence the parent to jail. Often, the sentence is suspended, meaning that the parent may not have to actually go to jail, but rather re-appear for future hearings to demonstrate compliance with the Court order. If the parent is not in compliance, the Court can revoke the suspension of commitment and actually send the parent to jail. The risk of jail highly motivates errant parents to follow the Court's visitation orders.
If the custodial parent is found in contempt, the Court will often order that the non-custodial parent have make up time with the children. Sometimes, the make-up time ordered by the Court exceeds the amount of actual time lost.
reimbursement of costs
When the custodial parent is found in contempt, the Court has authority to order the parent to reimburse the attorney's fees and court costs expended to pursue the contempt. While the amount ordered reimbursed is often less than the total actually spent, it sends a clear message to the custodial parent that compliance is important.
change of custody
Often, the violation of the visitation order is so significant that it actually damages the relationship between the children and the non-custodial parent, and the children are exposes to unecessary drama, friction and chaos. In such a case, the non-custodial parent could seek a change of primary custody, arguing that a change of custody would lead to better co-parenting and increased flexibility and support for a positive relationship for the children with both parents.
For a non-custodial parent, frequent and meaningful access to the children is critical for long-term relationships to thrive despite the parents' separation. Therefore, it is important to ensure that visitation orders are followed and enforced if necessary. Christiansen Law Firm assists parents with visitation enforcement issues. The attorneys of Christiansen Law Firm can review all facets of your situation and provide expert guidance regarding actions that can and should be taken. For more information about how Christiansen Law Firm can assist you with your visitation matter, contact our offices in Houston or San Antonio.