Once entered into by the court, your divorce decree is deemed a court order. You and your ex-spouse must follow the child custody arrangements detailed in the court order or be prepared to face the consequences.
But what happens if your ex-spouse constantly picks up the children late or returns them later than the agreed upon time? What if he or she schedules outings or activities with the children during days or times when the children are supposed to be with you?
Call your attorney. If your ex-spouse consistently fails to follow the set child custody orders, sending your ex-spouse a strongly-worded letter written by your attorney is often the first step to getting him or her to obey child custody orders. This letter can simply inform your ex that he or she is violating the court order, that you are willing to take legal action, and that there will be penalties involved if changes are not made.
Try mediation. You may want to call the court where your child custody orders were made to see if there are mediation services available in their Family Relations Office or Family Services Office. Mediation is one way you and your ex-spouse may be able to resolve your custody issues without having to go to court.
Modify your child custody arrangement. If the other parent is repeatedly disobeying a certain portion of the court order, you may opt to modify your child custody arrangement to accommodate both your needs. Ask your lawyer how to go about requesting a change in the duration and times of visitation schedules, for instance.
Call the police. You may also choose to call the local authorities. Ask the police to intervene if you find yourself in a situation where you need to take your children with you but cannot because of your ex-spouse is denying your legal right to do so. Be sure to have a certified copy of your child custody orders with you.
File a motion for contempt of court. Another option to get your ex-spouse to follow court orders is to file a motion for contempt of court. Such motion requires the other parent to appear in court and explain why he or she is breaking child custody orders. If found guilty, the other party may need to pay a fine, face sanctions, or possibly be placed behind bars for a short period of time. You may even request your ex-spouse cover your attorney’s fees as punishment for not obeying the orders.
File a motion to enforce. Under Colorado law, you may choose to file a motion to enforce parenting time against the other party in court. This may be an ideal solution as the law states that a motion to enforce parenting time should be set for hearing as soon as possible, and so the court addresses a motion to enforce quicker than filing for contempt. In addition to ordering the other parent to pay for your reasonable court costs and attorney fees, the court may also explore other options and order new rules and conditions that may be in the best interests of the children.
Regardless of what steps you decide to take when your ex-spouse disobeys child custody orders, make it a point to write down all significant details of his or her non-compliance. This includes the date and time the incident happened, his or her actions, and how you reacted. Also note your attempts to resolve the situation with the other parent. Keeping a journal of these specifics will be of great help should you decide to take legal action later on.
Remember, however, to attempt to resolve things on your own before taking things to court or to the police. The court will not appreciate having to deal with very minor violations. The actions to be taken by the judge depends not only on personal preference, but also the severity of the other parent’s violation. Punishment may take the form of a change of custody, suspension of child support payments, or extra visitation rights.
Ultimately, see to it that your actions reflect the best interests of your children. You will be able to resolve your child custody issues with a competent attorney on your side.