After a relationship ends, children benefit best from an uninterrupted relationship with both of their parents. If one parent violates the visitation and/or custody agreement, it can change the child’s relationship with the parent.
Arrangements can occasionally become an obstacle when it is time for visits. It’s always important to be on time when meeting your children for scheduled visitation, whether you’re picking them up or returning them to their other parent. Even with a valid reason, the other parent will likely take notes of occasional tardiness.
But if the other parent has violated a standing visitation order and failed to allow you access to the children, it may be time to get help with enforcement.
Visitation Is A Court Order
Sometimes parent choose to make changes on their own, and not request a modification through the court. As a temporary, workable solution, this may work in the interim. But if one parent decides to revert back to the original schedule, or otherwise fails to abide by it, there is no way to enforce the informal agreement.
Because visitation is an order, strict compliance is a must to avoid running violation. Someone who is unhappy with the divorce or any part of it may decide to interfere with the visitation order. These unacceptable actions can include:
- Refusing to allow a co-parent to exercise their rights as a parent
- Refusing a parent access to the child
- Withholding visitations because of child support in arrears (which is not allowed)
- Delays and lateness in transporting the child, or missing exchanges entirely
- Making excuses for non-compliance with visitation and custody scheduling
- Interrupting parenting time with frequent calls and texts
- Ignoring the child or leaving a child on their own during parenting time
- Refusing to take the child to school, doctor’s appointments, extracurricular activities, or court-ordered therapy appointments
- Relocating with the child without court permission, in or out of New York State
Should your former spouse begin interfering with or violating the court order, keep a written journal of each scheduled visit with dates, times, and other notations. Include any police reports and correspondence between you and the other parent, including text messages, emails, and other information that you believe may prove useful in court.
If you believe your child is in any type of danger, contact Child Protective Services or your local police or sheriff’s department.
Consequences For Violations
Parents who willfully violate a New York visitation order could face contempt of court charges. Occasionally, a judge will impose fines and jail time for repeated violations, which can also lead to changes in that parent’s custody, both existing and future. A series of violations may also lead to the violating parent losing custody and visitation entirely. Additionally, a violating parent can be held responsible for court costs and attorney’s fees for the parent who brings an action.
The New York State court system offers legal remedies to parents who need help, beginning with a Custody/Visitation Enforcement Petition. Work with a New York family lawyer who can help you file the petition with the court, and assist you through the process.
Modifying Your Visitation Agreement
Over time, your schedule, your children’s schedules, and that of your former spouse are likely to change. One or both may have different jobs and different shifts, or the children’s school schedules aren’t what they were. The schedule you agreed to at the time of your divorce may not be workable now, or a year from today.
Have a discussion with your former spouse about changing the schedule so that it works for everyone. When you come to an agreement, petition the court for a modification.
Either parent can make the request, but they may have to show a substantial change of circumstances that warrant the update. The court prefers that both parents agree to the changes. But if one parent objects, a “substantial change of circumstances” is a requirement.
These circumstances include:
- One parent wishes to relocate to another area with the child (or farther away) requiring changes due to the distance
- Schedule changes with a parent’s new job, making the current schedule impossible
- A significant change of income for one parent
- Remarriage of one or both spouses, which may mean different obligations and scheduling
- Danger to the child—if one parent is drinking too much, using drugs, abusing the child, or otherwise putting them at risk, the court will likely agree to modification
In some cases, a child over the age of 12 can make their wishes known to the court. A New York judge may take this into consideration, but it will not be the determining factor. As always, the court will consider the best interest of the child in any changes.
Our Experienced Family Law Team Puts New York Families First
At the Law Office of Stacy Sabatini, Esq., we provide an array of family law and related legal services to families in Rockland County. If your New York visitation order has not been followed, or you need to learn more about visitation orders, please contact our office online by filling out our online form or call (845) 243-0295 today!