Strategies to Manage Violations of Child Custody Agreements
If a Child Custody Agreement Is Violated, There Are Different Ways to Take Action and Safeguard the Agreements Previously Established in New Jersey
These agreements do so much more than establish a visitation schedule. A child custody agreement stipulates how and what decisions will be made regarding education, medical care, and other topics such as discipline for the child. Participation as a coach or volunteer in extra-curricular sports or clubs may need to be worked out. Agreements regarding holidays and vacation time are also settled in the agreement. Indeed, any financial obligations for monthly support and other expenses, such as sports equipment, instrument rental/purchase, and other incidentals, should be established. Even when the divorce is on the best of terms, with no arguments or contention, at some point, problems may arise, and you will be glad you had a child custody agreement. You have no way to foresee any discontent with the status quo and should be prepared if suddenly there is a wrench in the works.
Common Violations of Child Custody Agreements in NJ
The most common problems are related to the parenting schedule. Some schedules are specific to the hour, while others include a loose schedule only indicating when the child will be with each parent. No matter the plan’s content, once a Family Court judge has ratified it, it is a binding, legal document. If either party wants to alter the agreement, both parents must voluntarily agree or with the court’s permission.
Typical violations occur when one parent refuses to follow the parenting plan by keeping the child longer, not picking them up on their scheduled day, or taking the child without notice (from school, the mall, or a friend’s house). Sometimes the parent with primary custody will refuse to allow visitation altogether. Going out of state without the co-parent’s permission, unless otherwise stipulated in the custody agreement, is also a problem.
More dangerous actions encourage the child to distance themselves from you emotionally, speaking ill of you or emotionally manipulating the child against you (parental alienation). Another issue is intentionally keeping your child from you or harming them through your co-parent’s irresponsible or dangerous behaviors. Making legal decisions without the other parent’s consent is not only worrisome but goes against the custody agreement.
Dangerous behaviors by the co-parent, such as heavy drinking, using controlled substances, or having frequent parties when the child is in their custody, also break the agreement.
Legal Repercussions for Disobeying a Custody Agreement in New Jersey
It is vital that you do not take matters into your own hands. File a motion with the court and request that your custody agreement be upheld. There will be a hearing regarding your petition, and if your ex is found to have violated the parenting plan, there are several consequences the judge can apply.
The custody arrangement can be adjusted to give the offending co-parent less visitation time (temporarily or permanently). Economic sanctions can be applied, such as babysitting costs when they don’t arrive at their scheduled time or lost wages because you couldn’t go to work. The judge may insist that the child be dropped off and returned to a public place or provide alternative transportation arrangements for transferring the child. Your ex may have to go to counseling or pay for you and your child to participate in counseling also. The court could charge your ex $50 for each custody agreement violation because it is considered a contempt of court violation.
As a last resort, the judge can issue a warrant if the violations continue and can require your ex to do community service or even put them in jail. Suppose your ex deprives you of parenting time by taking, keeping, or hiding the child. In that case, they can face serious criminal charges of interference with custody, a second or third-degree crime, unless they believe their actions are in conjunction with preserving the child’s safety and well-being.
Tips to Better Handle Violations of NJ Custody Agreements
Try sitting down with your co-parent and calmly discussing your concerns. Seek a mediator through family court services. If the disagreement continues, you must continue with legal action, but at least you can show the judge proof of your willingness to work things out without going directly to court.
Think Ahead and Keep Records of Actions Disobeying Custody Agreements
You must keep a written record with the date, time, and violation incurred every time it happens. When we are upset, our memories can fail us. If your ex is flouting your agreement, you must present as much evidence as possible. Communicating with your ex via email or text is another way to have a written record of their disrespect for your custody agreement.
Your first concern should be to gather evidence. As mentioned previously, keep a written record of every time your custody agreement was violated. The next step is to speak with a family law attorney. Modification of the custody agreement may need to be done. If the violations continue, you can file a motion for contempt. In highly aggressive situations, it is best to call the police if you feel either you or your child is in danger.
Contact our Law Firm to Rectify Violations of Your Child Custody Agreement in Passaic County, New Jersey
If your ex repeatedly violates your custody order, you and your child’s well-being and mental health are at risk. The Montanari Law Group has family law attorneys at the top of our field. We can help you with formal correspondence to your ex regarding the custody violations, help you keep a record of those violations, and submit a petition for a contempt of court order against your ex in Montclair, Clifton, Ridgewood, West Milford, Fort Lee, Paterson, Totowa, Montvale, Wyckoff, Woodland Park or other Passaic County and North New Jersey communities.
We know that your only focus is what is in your child’s best interests. Maybe you need to ask the court for a custody modification to make the necessary changes to protect your child. Our skilled attorneys will ensure your custody order is fair, but we also want to ensure your ex is held accountable for their poor decisions.
For a free, confidential consultation with one of our seasoned family lawyers, call our office at (973) 233-4396 or fill out our online contact form. Stop the violations of your custody order with our help today.