What to Do if a Coparent Violates Your Custody Arrangement
If you share a child with a coparent, you likely understand how intricate and stressful child custody arrangements can be. While raising children with an ex-spouse can be amicable, there are many cases in which both parents cannot reach an agreement or one parent chooses to violate a court-ordered arrangement.
It’s natural for moms and dads alike to want to prioritize their family’s safety, happiness, and well-being—especially during the holiday season. But to ensure the holidays stay as merry as possible, both parents need to cooperate with the terms of their child custody arrangement and holiday visitation schedule.
Keep reading to learn which steps to take if your coparent violates your child custody arrangement.
How to File for Contempt of Court in a Child Custody Case
Contempt of court entails the intentional and willful violation of a court order. When one coparent violates the conditions of their child custody arrangement, the other coparent may file a Petition for Contempt to hold the other party responsible for violating the order.
Consider these examples of child custody arrangement violations:
- Disregarding the time windows outlined in the arrangement. This may include dropping off the child late or early.
- Refusing to pay child or spousal support. Failure to make the agreed-upon child custody payments in a timely manner, or at all, may be considered a violation.
- Engaging in dangerous or reckless behavior while the child is present
- Engaging in disparagement. Violations of the child custody arrangement’s non-disparagement clause may include badmouthing a coparent to others or the child.
- Excessively contacting the child when they’re with the other parent. This can take the form of blowing up the child’s phone with texts, calling repeatedly during the parent’s non-visitation time, and more.
- Taking the child out of the area without notice or permission. While it isn’t necessarily against the law for a parent to relocate out of the state or area with the child, there are important legal steps that must be followed. In some circumstances, taking a child out of town or state without the other parent’s knowledge, without giving proper notice to the other coparent, or without first seeking the other coparent’s permission is a violation of the child custody agreement.
If your coparent violates your arrangement, it’s imperative to take immediate action to discuss how to address the violation and ensure that the proper court-ordered arrangement is followed. Bringing the violation to the court's attention will not only protect your child's best interests but can help establish stability and clear expectations among both parties going forward.
Furthermore, if one parent is having trouble following the court’s orders regarding child custody, the judge may deem it necessary to make alterations or modifications for the sake of the child.
Failure to comply with the terms listed in a child custody arrangement can ultimately result in a change of custody. If a violation is made by a coparent, the other coparent can and should take the following steps to pursue legal action:
- File for a Petition for Contempt with the court. Locate your local court to start the legal process. Keep in mind there are helpful online resources available to assist you, including the Maryland court form finder tool and an online list of walk-in family court help centers near you.
- Receive the appropriate documents. The Maryland family court will issue a Show Cause Order. The latter will include the specific date and time that the other parent must appear in court to explain their actions.
- Serve the papers to the coparent in violation. A skilled child custody attorney can help you serve the corresponding paperwork to the other coparent. You must deliver the Show Cause Order listed in the step above in addition to a copy of the original petition.
- Appear in court for the Show Cause hearing. It’s crucial to seek reliable legal counsel from an experienced family law attorney before the hearing, as they can help gather, organize, and present sufficient evidence that the other coparent was in direct violation of your child custody arrangement.
Penalties for Violating a Child Custody Arrangement
If the court determines that a coparent did violate the terms of their child custody arrangement, appropriate legal steps will be taken to prevent continued harm and ensure that custody orders are followed going forward.
Being held in contempt of court, particularly if in tandem with a modification hearing, can result in various penalties, including (but not limited to):
- Jail time
- Reduced custody
- Losing custody altogether
- A court order to attend rescheduled visitation days that were missed
- Adjusted custodial time going forward
As you can imagine, the severity of penalties will depend on the violation itself and whether or not the parent has accrued additional violations in the past. Subsequent violations may be subject to harsher consequences.
5 Quick Coparenting Tips to Keep the Holidays Merry & Bright
While the holiday season can be a difficult time for separated parents and kids alike, there are ways to make festivities as pain-free as possible. Consider these 5 coparenting tips to keep your holiday season merry and bright:
- Discuss holiday plans with your coparent ahead of time.
- Put your child’s needs first.
- Coordinate gifts to avoid confusion or disappointment.
- Exercise healthy communication.
- Practice self-care while working through emotions.
We’re Here to Fight for the Results You Deserve
Our skilled child custody lawyer has spent over a decade advocating on behalf of families in Queen Anne’s County. Matthew Penick Law is a full-service family law firm offering high-quality legal services in our local community. From divorce to spousal support, our team provides personalized legal representation tailored to your family’s unique needs and goals.
You can count on our firm to do our due diligence from start to finish. Our experienced family law attorney is a skilled problem solver who understands the importance of thorough preparation and education to best serve his clients on a case-by-case basis. We take pride in implementing an honest and straightforward approach that can help you obtain a favorable outcome in court.
Did your coparent violate your child custody agreement? It’s crucial to take action now to protect your loved ones. Call (410) 618-0863 or contact us online to request your free initial consultation.