While some parents are able to successfully co-parent their children after divorce, others aren’t. There are many cases in which the custodial parent withholds visitation—without a valid reason—from the noncustodial parent. Fortunately, noncustodial parents have several options to correct this type of behavior.
The following are steps noncustodial parents can take to enforce their visitation order:
- Document any missed visitation time – Each time child visitation is denied, you should write it down to keep a record. An effective way to do this is to use a calendar. Additionally, maintain any correspondence with your ex-spouse, so it is imperative to stay on topic and avoid confrontation. All of this can be used as evidence in your case which proves you did your best to uphold your end of the visitation order—if you happen to go to court for enforcement of that order.
- Attempt to resolve the issues directly with the other parent – Before asking the court for help, try to fix the situation with your ex-spouse. If the issue only happens occasionally, you may attempt to schedule make-up dates for any missed time. Resolving the matter through these means is also a great way to prevent problems down the road.
- Have your lawyer write and send a demand letter – If the custodial parent fails to make an effort in scheduling make-up dates, you can ask your family law attorney to send an official letter. Ensure the letter states you are willing to resolve the situation without going to court. But if the custodial parent’s behavior continues, you must take legal measures to enforce the visitation order.
- Go to court – If the letter is not effective, you can raise the issue before a judge by filing a motion to enforce to ask the court to force the other parent to comply with the visitation order. The court can also schedule make-up dates for any missed time and even order your ex-spouse to pay for your court and attorney fees if he/she is found guilty of intentionally defying the visitation schedule. This is where your documentation comes into play. By showing the judge your repeated attempts to fix the issue prior to going to court, you will have a great chance of convincing the judge to rule in your favor.
Remember, do not withhold child support in retaliation. Child custody and visitation matters are not related to child support. Since your child is legally entitled to such support, you are obligated to make payments to support your child. If you stop making child support payments, you could be held in contempt of court for violating a court order.
Furthermore, you are not allowed to have custody of your child beyond the visitation schedule. This is considered kidnapping and your spouse can contact law enforcement to have you arrested.