Sometimes, a marriage or relationship ends badly. If children are involved, however, the former spouses must still communicate and cooperate to some degree, but child custody arrangements don't always go according to plan. Custodial interference by a parent is one of the major problems that may arise after divorce or breakup, or in some non-divorce situations involving children. Here you will find tips on what to do if the other parent doesn't fulfill his or her obligations under your parenting agreement or violates a court order related to custody or visitation. This section also includes information on out-of-state moves in child custody situations, parental abduction, and more.
Interference with Custody or Visitation
One of the biggest child custody problems is interference. This occurs when one or both of the parents intentionally disobeys the visitation schedule, fails to take custody of the children at the agreed-upon dates, or otherwise fails to live up to the parenting agreement. Sometimes this is done in order to retaliate against the other parent or simply to extend (or limit) one's time with the children. Since a parenting agreement carries the force of law as a court order, failure to follow its directions can lead to criminal sanctions.
Interference can happen with custody or visitation, by the custodial or noncustodial parent. But not all interference is considered a violation of the court order. For example, protecting a child from danger; being late because of bad road conditions or other such circumstances; or honoring previous agreements that deviate from the parenting plan (such as a summer trip) are generally okay.
Types of Custodial Interference
There are countless examples of custodial interference, but here are some of the more common ways in which it may occur:
- Refusing to hand off child to the other parent for a scheduled visitation
- Limiting child's telephone or online contact with the other parent
- Intentionally failing to return the child at the predetermined time
- Visiting the child during the other parent's scheduled time with the child
Child Custody and Relocation
It's sometimes necessary for one or both parents to move out of the area after a divorce, often for work or for more affordable housing, but this presents a problem for child custody arrangements. Relocation is okay as long as the parents have signed a relocation agreement and subsequent change in the parenting plan. But if there is a dispute over the move, the court may step in decide whether the relocation is in the best interests of the child.
Often, the original child custody arrangement and parenting plan will stipulate whether relocation is allowed. Some states require the custodial parent to provide advance written notice of an intended move to the noncustodial parent. States have different ways of determining whether relocation is appropriate in child custody cases and the terms for doing so; talk to an attorney for more details.
Actual, physical time spent with parents cannot be replaced. But family courts are increasingly offering "virtual visitation" as the next-best thing under certain circumstances. A virtual visitation is one that uses video conferencing (such as Skype) or other such methods to provide the noncustodial parent and child a chance to connect. In fact, virtual visitation is one way to help children stay connected to noncustodial parents who either live far away, are traveling, or otherwise unable to meet the child in person.
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