Custody orders in California are legally binding documents issued by a court. Violating one of these orders can cause legal issues and co-parenting complications. How does California handle violations of child custody orders?

Being Aware of the Requirements of Your Order

It’s important that you are familiar with what your custody order requires because not all such orders are the same. Judges will base a custody order on the unique circumstances of the parents and children in each case, so the only way to know for sure what is required is to reference your order. For example, visitation time periods will vary based on the parents’ work schedules and the child’s needs.

If one parent is consistently late for visitation exchanges, makes medical decisions unilaterally when the other parent also has a right to these decisions or prevents the other parent from visiting with the child, the violating parent could face legal consequences. Claiming that you did not know what the terms were is not a valid excuse for violating a custody order, which is why it’s crucial to read and familiarize yourself with your court order.

When the Other Parent Violates an Order

If your child’s other parent has violated a child custody order, you will need to document these violations in case you need to go back to court. Text messages, voicemails, pictures, and videos are also useful evidence. Even keeping a log of what violations occurred with dates and details can be helpful. Any instances of non-compliance with the court order should be documented as closely as possible.

Keep in mind that one violation, unless incredibly egregious or severe, is not likely to be persuasive in court. Repeated or continuous violations should be documented to show a pattern of behavior that will be more convincing to a judge and show that the other parent is not complying with the ordered terms.

Can the Cops be Called for a Custody Order Violation?

Police officers can step in in certain scenarios if a court order is being violated. A common situation that may require the assistance of law enforcement is if one parent refuses to return the child to the other parent when their visitation time is over. Emergency situations that would require police intervention can arise, like if one parent is doing something dangerous, illegal, or neglectful. In such cases, the police can step in to ensure the child is safe.

Except for a few select circumstances like this, the police will usually be limited in what they can do to help. Because violations of child custody orders are most often seen as civil matters, the cops cannot interfere to address the conflict. They can typically only involve themselves in order to ensure the child’s safety and welfare, and any other dispute involving the order must be resolved in court.

Court Action for Violations of Custody Order

If you are struggling to co-parent with someone who is repeatedly violating your custody order, filing a motion to enforce the order may be a beneficial option. This motion acts as a request to the court and prompts a review and hearing to resolve the issues. You will have the opportunity to present evidence, which is when your documentation of the violations will be useful.

The court has a few options for addressing your motion. A judge may decide that a theoretical slap on the wrist is all that’s needed by reminding the other parent that they must abide by the terms of the order. However, the court may also decide to impose penalties on the violating parent or change the terms of the custody order.

Contempt Hearing for Custody Order Violations

Another available legal option is a contempt hearing. If you request a contempt hearing for habitual or prolonged non-compliance, the court will decide whether the violating parent willfully and intentionally failed to abide by the order. In some circumstances, this could lead to penalties such as fines or jail time.

It is rare that a court will sentence a violating parent to jail, but it is an option in serious cases. The point of a contempt hearing is to enforce an order, reiterate the importance of following court orders, and ensure the child’s best interests are protected. Before you request a hearing to hold your co-parent in contempt, be sure that it is a necessary measure. If you are unsure about which course of action is best for your situation, speak to a child custody attorney at Sarieh Law Offices.

Alternative Options for Resolving Custody Disputes

Effective co-parenting requires cooperation and communication, but that can be difficult when emotions are high. Maybe you and the other parent have different ideas about how best to raise your child, but keeping your child’s best interests at heart is a priority for both of you. Mediation and conflict resolution methods can be incredibly beneficial for parents struggling with custody order violations. These processes allow parents to communicate openly and productively with the goal of reaching a resolution that everyone can be happy with. However, when other dispute resolution methods do not work, filing a motion with the court is an option.

Violating any court order can have legal consequences, and child custody orders are no exception. If you need help with a co-parent who is not complying with a court order, contact Sarieh Law Offices at (714) 694-7723 for a free consultation.