Divorce is an incredibly trying time for all involved, including your child. After days, weeks, months, or even years of negotiating with your former spouse, you finally arrived at a custody and support agreement that you believed to be in the best interests of your child, as well as both parents. However, your relationship with your ex may have completely eroded, the agreement itself may have been forged on shaky grounds, your ex may be irresponsible, or life circumstances may have changed. Whatever the case may be, you, along with millions of other Americans, are struggling with how to approach a parent who has violated the child custody order. Do you give the other parent a second chance? Do you give the parent an ultimatum? Do you prevent them from seeing their child? Do you notify the judge? Below I discuss how to best handle a parent who isn’t following the child custody order.
When you have a child and divorce, the Arizona judge overseeing your case will require a child custody order and child support order to be entered before your divorce can be finalized. The child custody order will dictate which parent (or both) has legal and physical custody. Legal custody allows a parent to make decisions regarding the child’s upbringing, such as medical care or education. Physical custody allows the child to stay with the parent some or all of the time. When parents share joint legal custody, they have equal say. When parents share joint physical custody, they split time with the child. Even if only one parent has sole physical custody, however, the other parent may be afforded visitation. If your former spouse goes against the custody agreement by refusing to enroll your child in school or failing to show up for custody exchanges, they have violated the custody order.
When a violation has occurred, you have several options.
When a violation has occurred, you have several options. I recommend that your first step should be communicating with your ex. You want to find out why they violated the agreement. Maybe they didn’t understand the agreement, lost track of time, or had an emergency. Remind them of what the custody agreement says and make sure they know that you are legally entitled to report them to the court. If this does not work or if the violation is severe, you can file a temporary emergency modification of custody motion. You can also petition for contempt.
Temporary Emergency Modification
A temporary emergency modification of custody motion is just that – you are requesting emergency help from the judge. You are asking the judge to grant you temporary sole custody because the other parent has violated the custody order. As you can probably remember from your divorce case, the Arizona family law courts are incredibly busy. It can take months for a judge to hear a motion. An emergency motion, however, puts you at the front of the line. You are not required to give the other parent notice or an opportunity to defend themselves. This type of motion should be reserved only for emergency situations, such as your child’s health or safety is in jeopardy.
Any decision that you make should be in the best interest of your child.
Petition For Contempt
A petition for contempt is another motion that requests that the judge sanction your former spouse for violating the agreement. Punishment comes in various formats. For instance, your spouse may be downgraded to court-supervised visitation or you may be awarded sole legal and physical custody.
Remember that any decision you make should be in the best interests of your child, not for revenge against your ex. For assistance with enforcing child custody orders, contact Monahan Law Firm, PLC at (623) 385-3190. We represent clients located throughout the Phoenix metropolitan area, including Avondale, Buckeye, Chandler, Glendale, Mesa, Peoria, Phoenix, Sun City, Surprise, Tempe, and all of Maricopa County.