For many, the establishment of a court-ordered custody agreement with a visitation schedule is the final chapter of a relationship. Unfortunately, problems can continue to arise when the time comes to start the visitation or shared parenting schedule. Parents and their families sometimes fail to understand the importance of following a custody agreement after it has been signed by a judge. Knowing how to file interference with child custody can help a parent gain control of what is often a volatile situation.
What is Interference?
If someone knowingly or recklessly takes a child from the custody of his legal parent or guardian without that person's consent, he may be committing interference. It commonly occurs among divorced parents when someone misunderstands the terms of a court order or accidentally keeps the child for longer than they should. Some parents will interfere with child custody intentionally because they believe that doing so is in the child's best interest. These are examples of moderate interference.
At the other end of the scale, it would constitute severe interference if someone who is not a parent understands that their actions would cause serious concern for the child's safety. Perpetrators could potentially face a felony of the second degree if they are convicted.
Obtain and Review the Custody Order
Visit the court that handled the child custody case filing and hearings and obtain a copy of the certified child custody order from the clerk of court if you don't already have one. The certified copy of the child custody order will be stamped by the clerk with the seal of the court. This authenticates that the order is true and correct. There's usually is a fee for obtaining a certified child custody order which varies from state to state.
How an Attorney Can Help
If you had legal representation when the custody order was issued, advise the attorney that the other parent is interfering with the order. The attorney might contact the parent committing the violation to remind him of the custody order if she considers the interference to be moderate. This might be the case if he's simply returned the child after established visitation hours or making invalid excuses for not allowing visitation. The attorney will usually mail a certified letter to the erring parent or the parent's attorney.
It can be helpful to retain a family law attorney who can help you establish that custody interference has occurred if you weren't originally represented by someone when the order went into effect.
Filing a Police Report Can Document Your Claim
File a report with your local police department if contacting the parent who is violating the order has not yielded results, or if the interference escalates. Filing a police report will help to record the occurrences. Bring the certified copy of the child custody order to the police department because officers will need it to verify that the child custody order exists and is being violated.
File a Motion to Enforce the Existing Custody Order
Visit the clerk of court to file a motion asking a judge to enforce the existing child custody order. The clerk might have a form available to help you draft the motion. The motion should include your contact information, as well as the other parent's contact information. It should give the details of the occurrences of interference and include copies of the child custody order and the reports you filed with the local police department.
An affidavit swearing to the accuracy of the motion might be required. You can often obtain this and sign and have it notarized at the court house.
A copy of the filed motion must be mailed to the other parent, often referred to as the respondent, by registered mail or, in some cases, hand-delivered by an officer of the court such as a sheriff's officer or a private process server.
A Court Hearing Will Result in a Ruling
Attend a hearing at the local court. You should receive a date for the hearing and possibly a hearing notice at the time you file the motion. Mail a copy of the hearing notice to the respondent by registered mail. Take copies of the post office receipts to the hearing with you so you can prove that you properly notified the respondent. During the hearing, the judge will decide whether the respondent interfered with the custodial agreement and he'll give a ruling on the case.
The court might rule in your favor. There are many possible remedies if this is the case. The judge can order "make-up" parenting time or might require that the other parent to pay attorneys' fees, court fees and any other costs involved with filing the motion. In some cases, a court might charge the parent who interfered with a crime. It is also possible that the judge might decide that a temporary or permanent modification of your custody agreement is in order.
Following the custody agreement to the letter is important to avoid a potential claim of interference. When interference occurs, knowing the steps to take can provide much-needed peace of mind.
Filing for interference of a child custody order can involve filing a police report, filing a motion with the court and attending a hearing.
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