CHILD CUSTODY INTERFERENCE
When a child custody order is created, it is created in the best interest of the child, right? So if a parent violates this order wouldn’t they be violating the best interest of the child? If your judge decided that it was in your child’s best interest to be with you on particular days for a particular amount of time and the other parent decides they are not going to surrender the child to you, not only are they disrespecting a court’s order, they are interfering with what the judge decided was best for the child.
Look for the laws regarding “interference with child custody” in your family code and in your criminal code. Your family court enforces the civil family code sections and your local law officials enforce the criminal codes.
TRUST IN COURT ORDERS
If a parent and child cannot trust that their orders will be upheld and enforced, what happens? Well word will get out that court orders are useless, children will have no protection from parental disagreements and their relationship with the other parent will not be protected.
When people lose trust in the courts they stop using them. When people stop using the court this can lead to some very bad decisions and unpredictable results. This can be very bad for society as a whole. Parents and children need to be able to depend on consistent and predictable results.
WHY IS ENFORCEMENT IMPORTANT?
Most states have a public policy that the child’s relationship with the other parent is to be protected.
Parents and children need to be able to depend on their custody orders. If the first responders do not enforce these orders, the orders are useless.
Parents pay good money to get these orders to protect their child to their relationship and time with them. You might have spent $30,000, $100,000 or even more getting custody orders in place. Once that is done you probably thought the battle was over and if the orders weren’t followed that the police were going to take action against the parent violating the orders.
When a police officer and the district attorney do not enforce these orders in an expedited fashion, these state actors are not only failing to protect the best interest of the child in violation of your state’s public policy, but are also creating mistrust and dissatisfaction in the parent who is suffering the loss. This mistrust and dissatisfaction can transfer over to the child not getting to see their other parent. As that child ages they will know that the law does not respect court orders and could translate this as court orders are pretty much useless unless you are rich and lucky.
If a parent has to go back to court after already going bankrupt just to get the initial custody order in the first place, that parent and child could be cut off from each other purely because of financial reasons. Child custody is not supposed to depend on a parent’s financial status.
INTERFERING WITH CUSTODY IS CRIMINAL IN MOST STATES
It is criminal to interfere with a custody order. By enforcing these criminal laws, your state reduces the burden on the parent suffering the violation and protects the child from prolonged separation from their parents and prolonged litigation. Enforcing orders immediately simplifies life for everyone, reduces the likelihood of child abduction, child alienation, and increases the trust and confidence with court orders. This is beneficial to everyone in a lawful society. When parents lose hope in justice, society suffers. When parents and children are confident that they will be protected their overall confidence increases and so does their happiness.
Research to determine the attitude of the local police, district attorneys, and attorney general in your state surrounding enforcement of custody orders by police and district attorneys is necessary to determine whether you need legislative action to encourage compliance with court orders.
If your state does not enforce criminal codes on custodial parents, you need to inform your legislators and find out what else can be done to encourage compliance by first responders.
RESPECT, TRUST, CONSISTENCY, PREDICTABILITY – All reasons your state legislators should care about having criminal laws in place that are enforced on parents who violate child custody court orders.
If you are not receiving the results you think you should be getting from your law officials, consider doing your own investigation on how often police departments and district attorneys throughout your state enforce custody orders. If you find that they are just sending the parent back to court, you will have to take this information to your legislator, find out what your child custody interference laws say in your state, and then find out from the law officials what they would need in the law to enforce it, and take to your legislators and ask them to put that into the language of your child custody interference criminal laws.
WHAT ARE SOME OF THE COMMON EXCUSES USED TO DENY ENFORCEMENT BY LAW OFFICIALS?
If you run into the objection that they don’t believe a parent should be put in jail, ask them if the parent robbed or murdered, would they throw them in jail. Custody interference laws should not be treated any differently.
Some law officials might say that they don’t know whether the other parent has a valid reason for denying you custody of your child. That’s when you ask where it says in the law that they are to consider an excuse for the other parent refusing to surrender the child to you during your time. You can remind the law enforcement that all objections were taken into consideration by the judge during the trial and the judge made that order according to each side’s objections, and that it is not the job of the police to second guess the ruling of the judge. Show them the language in your order that says that they are to enforce, if your order has that. If the other parent says that the issue arose after the court order was created, then remind the police that the parent had a duty then to inform CPS, the police, file with the Court, all or whichever one is relevant. Remind them that the parent can take an ex parte emergency into the court and get an order same day. If they did not do this and did not obtain a new order then they must be held to following the order. Continue to insist that they enforce the orders and document if they do not.
Before you go to the police, make sure you have the most up-to-date custody order that is certified and give your law official a copy. Find out your police departments policy for enforcing child custody orders before you ever have a problem so if they have a policy to not enforce you know about it in advance and can start working on remedying that prior to having a problem.
There are some states that will consider involving the police as harmful to the child, so make sure that you are using this option only when necessary and as a last resort. However, do not hesitate to use it to enforce and document the other efforts you made to prevent. Also try your best to not expose your child to this action. Do not tell your child that you are calling the police and do not try to get your child involved with the police. It is not under your control how or what the other parent exposes your child to, but you can control how you do things. And keep in mind that it is unreasonable for the court to hold it against you if you have to involve the police.
If this becomes a regular occurrence with the other parent to interfere with the custody orders, become a member in our membership site for more tips on how to prepare so you can get the most effective results from the court on enforcement.
Child custody interference can be one of the most devastating things to deal with. Parents are pushing for easier and more efficient enforcement of orders so that they can rely on their orders and to reduce the destructive impact that interference has on their child’s life. Oklahoma improved their enforcement laws a few years ago so that parents can initiate and litigate the interference issue more easily even when they cannot afford an attorney. In Texas, parents have been pushing for better enforcement from law officials and the courts. One father recently got the court to arrest the custodial mother for 48 hours after he proved several times of interference with his custodial time with his children. The court did not change custody but hopefully this was enough to prevent future violations of the order by the custodial parent. Prior to that, last year, a noncustodial mother was able to get her law officials to arrest the custodial father. She has not gotten custody changed either but is working on it. There are several parent-run groups meeting with legislators (and their supportive staff), district attorneys, and the attorney general and the assistants to the AG to raise additional awareness and to increase compliance with enforcing custody interference criminal laws.
WHERE CAN YOU START?
Start doing Freedom of Information Act requests to the district attorneys and Chiefs of Police to find out how often they enforce any criminal laws regarding child custody interference in their area. If your state has a criminal code then list that so they can run a search on it and supply you with how many times it has been enforced. Be as specific as possible on what you are looking for to help narrow your search. If your search is too broad they might reject your request. If your state does not have a criminal code then you might want to suggest one to your legislators, but talk to your law officials first and to the courts to find out what they think would help with enforcing custody orders.
Images credited to: El paso County DRO