One question that we are often asked, as unfortunate as it may be is, “What happens if my ex refuses to follow the court-issued custody order?” While no one wants to believe, after going through a lengthy custody battle in court that one spouse will simply disregard the order, this does happen in some cases. Or, in other cases, the parties begin by following the courts orders only to later, after some time has passed, have second thoughts or simply start disregarding small things and eventually reach a point where the relationship and respect for the rules has broken down to the point that one party is wondering what legal remedies they may have available. The good news is that there are legal remedies available in these cases.
First and foremost, is important to realize that court orders are enforced differently than separation agreements. When a couple has a separation agreement, that is considered a contract between the parties, and when that contract is violated, the remedy is a breach of contract action, or filing a brand-new court action to determine child custody. By contrast, when a court has entered the order, the court has full authority to enforce that order. Prior to beginning any legal enforcement process, we would advise you first to attempt to discuss the matter with your ex-spouse and come to a resolution. As we have discussed throughout this guide, going to court is time-consuming and stressful, not to mention expensive. If matters can be worked out on your own, that is often the best avenue to achieve results in the fastest and less stressful way possible. In some circumstances however, one spouse simply won’t listen to reason, and returning to court will be necessary.
If you wish to return to court to enforce an order, you can always request that the court modify the custody arrangement, readjust your parenting plan, or give you extra days to make up for time you may have lost with your children as a result of the other parents failure to follow the order. You may also request that the court direct the other parent to pay your court costs and attorney fees for this effort. If however, attempts to modify your custody agreement or seek to be awarded lost time and costs fail, you may have to take more drastic measures.
In such cases, you can file a motion asking the court to hold the other parent in contempt of the custody order. Essentially this is a way of notifying the court that the other party is disobeying the court’s order and asking the court to find that the other parent has purposefully done so, which is considered a crime in North Carolina. some of the more serious custody violations that a court may look at when determining whether or not to find a party in contempt include:
If the other parent has engaged in any of these behaviors, it is important to try to keep and provide clear records of these violations. It may mean writing them down on a calendar keeping a journal with times, dates, and a description of the problem. If you have ever had to contact the police for any reason with respect to the other parent’s behavior, keeping a copy of those reports can also be tremendously helpful. Saving text messages, emails, and phone logs can also be beneficial. Being able to clearly document of violation of the custody order will be helpful in making your case to the court.
If a court finds that a party is in contempt, it may have severe consequences depending upon the nature of the contempt, including jail time. This is not to mention that one party might lose their custody privileges entirely or have them severely curtailed. In the majority of cases, you want to consider filing for contempt as a last resort. Nevertheless, for some parties it is necessary and it is the only path forward. It is important to consider carefully whether this sort of action will best serve your family and your children in the long run, and it is always important to seek the legal advice and assistance of a competent and knowledgeable attorney before doing so.
If you need to speak with an experienced custody attorney in Huntersville, contact Adkins Law to arrange a consultation.