Addressing Custody Violations – How to Keep Your Spouse from Taking Advantage of Your Custody Time

by | Feb 20, 2013 | Firm News |

What do you do when your ex-spouse is openly or quietly violating your Sacramento child custody orders?  While this question may not seem entirely applicable to your Sacramento custody case, we have discovered that many parents complain about their frustrations with their ex-spouse concerning their custody orders from the Sacramento County Family Court.  In some cases, the disagreements over the court order obedience are mild and resolved via an informal conversation or two.  However, in other cases, disagreements over obedience to the court order can be extremely severe.

Examples of court order disobedience are as follows:

  • Coaching the children to refuse to come to their parenting time with the other parent
  • Consistently scheduling the children to be unavailable during their parenting time with the other parent
  • Cutting short the children’s visitation with the other parent
  • Blatantly refusing to obey the order to take the children to see the other parent

Your first thought might be, “why would my ex-spouse do something like this?”  “Doesn’t he/she realize the negative impact this is having on my relationship with the children?”  There are many reasons your spouse would dare violate a child custody court order: trying to gain an upper hand in the custody battle by gaining more visitation, trying to erase or minimize your role in the children’s lives, or simply to stick it to you for the past failed relationship

If your ex-spouse is consistently engaging in one or more of these behaviors, you do not have to simply accept it.  You do have options.  First, you should document the incidents of child custody court order disobedience and have witnesses to the acts of disobedience (if possible).  Second, you should document your attempts to informally resolve your ex-spouse’s acts of disobedience.  If your ex-spouse refuses to stop, then you have to consider taking additional enforcement steps.

You have the option of calling the police to enforce the custody orders.  The positives of this approach are that the police can enforce a clear custody order and force the disobedient spouse to turn over the children to the reporting spouse.  Ideally if you do this enough times, your spouse will stop violating the order.  There are negatives to this approach.  Police officers are not lawyers and sometimes are reluctant to get involved in custody disputes.  They sometimes will counsel the reporting parent to hire a lawyer and file a custody motion.  Also, the experience of dealing with police officers can be traumatizing to the children because they may think you called the police on them.

You can also pursue filing a motion for contempt in Sacramento child custody court.  Since your spouse is violating a court order, he/she is in contempt of court and that is a civil offense and potentially a criminal offense.  Contempt is a way to enforce the court order and get the disobedient spouse punished.  However, hiring a lawyer to file a motion for contempt can be expensive, and it can be hard to prove your spouse intentionally violated the court order (versus accidental or negligent violations).  If the case is arguably criminal, the district attorney may have discretion on whether to press charges or to decline to pursue the case.  Also there is a statute of limitations affecting when a contempt motion can be brought.

Another option is to file a custody motion with the Sacramento child custody court and convince the judge and mediator that your ex-spouse is intentionally violating the custody order.  If the mediator and court believe you, they can award you more time and reduce the disobedient spouse’s time.  If your ex-spouse is violating your Sacramento child custody order, please do not hesitate to call us for a free half-hour consultation.  Our Sacramento child custody attorneys are prepared to meet with you and discuss your custody options