Separated parents often let their emotions control their actions, leading to poor decision making. If you are the non-custodial parent, arguments or other reasons could result in your ex reducing or flat out withholding or visitation.
Assuming you have a court order outlining a visitation schedule, it can be incredibly painful when your ex denies you that time with your children. This is particularly true when it becomes a regular occurrence.
If you are in this situation, you may be wondering exactly what you can do. An experienced divorce and family law attorney can help have visitation enforced by the courts. In the meantime, it is important to know that you have options!
Should I stop paying child support?
No! It is critical that you continue to pay your child support as ordered. While you should persist in taking the steps necessary to protect your court-ordered visitation, you also must avoid making common mistakes that can get you in trouble. Stopping child support is one of those mistakes.
Child support and visitation are not related. Your child (not the other parent) is legally entitled to child support. As the non-custodial parent, you are legally obligated to financially support your child. If you stop paying child support, you are violating a court order and may be held in contempt of court by a judge who can slap some serious penalties on you, like substantial fines and jail time.
Of course, you’re reading this because your ex is also violating a court order. Fortunately, there are certain progressive steps you can take to hold him or her accountable for denying your visitation.
Document missed visitation
Maintain a calendar of any time you were denied visitation, no matter the reason, and keep copies of any written communication with your ex. A word on emailing, texting, writing, etc. - always assume that anything you put in writing could be seen by a Judge. Any texts, emails or letters should be kept professional and on the topic of your visitation.
By documenting your missed visitation, you will start building a case for if you end up in court to enforce your custody order.
Have an adult conversation
Generally, if you and your ex are on good terms and visitation is missed, you should be able to resolve any issues between the two of you. Before escalating the matter to your custody attorney or the court, try to have a conversation.
When there is occasional missed visitation, through conflicting schedules or miscommunication, an easy fix is adding additional visitation to make up lost time. Effectively co-parenting takes a certain level of flexibility, so if there is a legitimate reason for the missed visitation, it is beneficial to both you and your ex, as well as your child, to try and work things out between the two of you.
Step up your attorney game
If your ex will not cooperate with you in making up missed visitation, or the missed visits become more frequent, then you should ask your family law attorney to send a strongly worded letter to your ex outlining what has occurred. Your lawyer should make it clear that you want to resolve any issues without the need for costly litigation, but also that you won’t tolerate denial of your court-ordered visitation. By sending such a letter, you are showing that you won’t back down when your rights are being violated, but also that you are trying to be reasonable and resolve any disagreements without the need for court intervention.
Contact the non-emergency line
Custody and visitation orders are supposed to be enforceable by law enforcement officials. That being said, many police departments, or specific officers, are hesitant to get involved in “domestic matters” unless it is a family abuse situation. If the police are willing to help you with your visitation, it will probably be through a telephone call to your ex or by escorting you to your pick up/drop off to exercise your visitation.
Ask the court to lay the smackdown
Your last and most aggressive option, if your ex still won’t comply with your custody order and is denying your visitation is to file an appropriate action with the court. Through filing a Petition for Contempt (sometimes called a “Show Cause” or “Rule to Show Cause”), you are able to ask the court to intervene and require your ex to comply with the order.
In a contempt proceeding, the court can order that your missed visitation be made up at some other time. Additionally, the court has some broad discretion in also sanctioning your ex through monetary fines, ordering that your ex pay court costs and your attorney’s fees, and possibly sending your ex to jail.
Remember that tip about documenting your missed visitation? This is where it comes in handy. By showing the court when the custody order was violated, any written reasons by your ex as to why the visitation was denied, and your attempts to resolve the problem without going to court, you will have a strong case in convincing a Judge to do something.
Do NOT stop paying child support
This is worth repeating. Do NOT stop paying child support if your ex is denying your court-ordered visitation. In addition to it being illegal, child support arrearages will continue to accrue and your ex could file his or her own contempt proceeding against you for non-payment. Judges have very little tolerance for a parent not paying child support.
Do NOT snatch your child
Like with child support, you also should NOT snatch your child and keep them for longer than what you are allowed pursuant to your visitation order. Even though patience is difficult when you are not seeing your kid, it is crucial that you allow the process to play out; otherwise, you could be facing a parental kidnapping charge. This can lead to some very serious consequences for you.
Contact a Wayside Legal Child Support Lawyer
While several of these options take time and do not offer instantaneous results, it is always best to work within the bounds of the law. It is important to contact an experienced family law attorney before trying to enforce your visitation order.
Wayside Legal LLC is an award-winning law firm located in North Bethesda, Maryland, with years of experience handling child support and visitation proceedings. If you are facing an issue with denial of visitation or nonpayment of child support, then contact a Wayside Legal attorney today for a consultation to discuss your specific situation