Following a divorce, it is in the best interest of children for parents to put aside their differences and co-parent in a harmonious manner. After all, it is difficult enough for the children that their family has been split in two. Unfortunately, it doesn’t always work out this way as the underlying dynamics in the relationship that led parents to divorce can lead to questionable decisions following the divorce. Withholding child visitation is an example of poor decision-making, and is far too common. If this happens to you, do not despair. You have some options.
One scenario is that the child’s custodial parent is occasionally withholding your visitation. Standard visitation orders or visitation agreements have provisions that if a custodial parent fails to comply with the visitation schedule, the parent deprived of visitation is entitled to “make-up” parenting time. In other words, the lost visit can be made up at another time. Ideally, you and the custodial parent can reach an agreement to schedule this makeup visit. It is a good idea to keep a calendar of withheld visits, because if an agreement cannot be reached as to make-up visits, you may need to get an order from the court for that make-up time.
Sometimes, visitation is frequently withheld. A common reason that we see this happen is that the custodial parent does not believe that you are paying your child support in a timely manner, or not paying enough. They believe that this entitles them to retaliate by cutting off your visitation. This is a false belief and a misunderstanding of the law. Contrary to what the custodial parent believes, your visitation order and your child support order are entirely separate and distinct in the eyes of the law. Failure to allow visitation is a violation of your visitation order.
If the custodial parent violates a visitation order, your first option is for you or your attorney to speak with the custodial parent to reason with them and re-establish visitation. This doesn’t always work. Another option is to call the police to enforce the court order. However, many local law enforcement agencies are hesitant to become involved unless there is some element of danger to a child or parent. The most successful method of enforcing your visitation rights is by hiring an attorney to seek enforcement from the court. The court has the authority to admonish the custodial parent, to enter temporary orders regarding custody and visitation, to award fees, and to order other arrangements to facilitate visitation.
Another common scenario is that a custodial parent is interfering with your child visitation. Interference is basically the act of depriving or inhibiting the parent-child relationship of the other parent. This can begin in subtle ways, such as regularly scheduled school activities and overnights with their friends during your visitation periods. It can also include preventing phone or email contact between you and the child. Another destructive method of interference is the custodial parent consistently disparaging you in front of the child, effectively turning the child against you. Why would your child want to visit with you if they believe you are a villain?
The courts take interference with child custody very seriously. Some remedies available to the court are to order the custodial parent to pay fees, such as child or family therapy. The custodial parent may also have to pay for attorneys’ fees or other expenses. The court can also enter temporary orders giving you custody. Extreme conduct like willfully defying court orders and concealing the child can result in a second to fourth-degree criminal offense and imprisonment.
If your court ordered visitation is being withheld, it is incredibly important to follow the following advice. First, don’t lash out in anger or attempt to retaliate in some way. This is bad for the children and will not help you get additional visitation. In fact, it may reinforce the custodial parent’s arguments in court. In addition, do not withhold child support. Child support and visitation are entirely separate considerations for courts. In fact, failure to pay child support is a violation of your child support order and can result in a contempt finding and even imprisonment. Instead, contact our office to review your options. You have rights and we are in the business of enforcing those rights.
If your visitation with your children is being withheld, call us. We will fight for you and petition the court to enforce your visitation order. Don’t lose your cool, let the attorneys at Williams Law Group, LLC lead you through this difficult experience. Our office is located in Union, New Jersey and we provide compassionate, yet tough legal representation to Union, Bergen, Essex, Hudson, Morris, Monmouth, and Middlesex counties, and the surrounding areas. Call us today at (908) 810-1083 or fill out our confidential online form to schedule a consultation with an attorney.