One of the pertinent issues in a divorce case is child custody. While healing from a divorce can be painful, it can become more complex if your ex-spouse violates your child custody agreement. That’s because their actions may harm the relationship between you and your child.
Consult a family law and estate planning law firm in San Antonio for legal advice if you’re going through such a situation. A skilled family law attorney in Texas can evaluate your case, help you fight for your rights, and handle all the legal aspects of the case, including filing a motion for enforcement.
What Does It Mean to Enforce a Child Custody Order in Texas?
Once the court resolves a child custody case and issues an order or the parents agree without being forced, both parties must comply with the directive and follow it as closely as possible. Complying with the order isn’t a matter of choice but a requirement by the law. In general, the desires of the child are no excuse for violating a court order, but parents can be flexible if they both agree.
Unfortunately, one or both parents may violate the decree or court orders based on various circumstances without the agreement or consent of the other parent. Regardless of the reasons, parents have a legal duty to uphold the orders, failure to which they can be subjected to penalties.
In What Ways Can a Parent Violate a Child Custody Order?
In determining if your ex-spouse is violating your child custody agreement, it’s essential to look at the situation objectively to decide if the violation requires legal action. It is also necessary to carefully read the wording of the order to make sure it clearly states what must be done. For example, if your ex-spouse is occasionally late in dropping off or picking up the children within set times, it may not be necessary to pursue legal action.
However, if the action is consistent, you may need to consult a San Antonio child custody attorney for legal redress. Other common forms of child custody violation include:
- Not allowing you to communicate with your child
- Failing to consult you when making important decisions concerning your child
- Saying negative things about you to your child
- Not adhering to the time-sharing schedule
- Refusing to produce the child when it is your time for possession
- Engaging in dangerous activities around the child, for example, drug abuse
- Violating any terms in the agreement
While some violations are more severe than others, you can enlist the help of a skilled San Antonio child custody lawyer to address the situation.
What Options Are Available to Me?
Your child custody lawyer in San Antonio will recommend various remedies to help you rectify the situation depending on the extent of the violation and how long it has been going on. Generally, it’s always best to correct child custody issues at the lowest level possible and escalate them if you can’t amicably resolve them with your ex-spouse. It is also necessary to have evidence of the violations.
You can seek the services of a family mediator from the local Family Services Office. The officers can sit you and your ex-spouse down and help you work out the problems between you to reach a solution that works for you and your children.
It is possible that you may be able to correct the situation without going to court or you may agree on an alternative arrangement. If this doesn’t work, you can still take court action.
Draft a Legal Letter
If you deem the violation relatively minor but consistent, you should first make sure you have clearly communicated to the other parent that the violations are not okay. Then, if that does not improve the situation, you can have your child custody lawyer in San Antonio draft a formal letter on your behalf. The letter will state how your ex-spouse has violated the agreement and inform them of the legal actions you intend to take if they don’t rectify their actions. Think of it as a warning letter that requires them to adhere to the custody agreement.
Find Them in Contempt
The constant intentional violation of a court order, including a child custody agreement, is against the law and amounts to contempt of court. With the help of a San Antonio family law and estate planning law firm, you can file this motion in court, present your evidence, and the judge or jury will take it up from there.
Can I Ask for Modification of the Child Custody Agreement?
According to the Texas Family Code, the court can modify any court order affecting the parent-child relationship under certain circumstances. For this to happen, the petitioner must show a substantial and material change in life circumstances. A consistent failure to follow an order to turn over the child to the other parent may be a circumstance that calls for a change in primary custody.
Other common changes that may require a modification may be a move of one or both parents that creates a significant change in distance between the parties, a re-marriage and new persons in the household of one parent, new medical or psychological needs of either parent or child, other significant changes in the needs of the child, a change in the parent’s work schedule that makes the prior order unworkable, new criminal charges against one parent, or a consistent failure to exercise periods of possession over a long period of time.
The petitioner must wait at least one year before filing a petition for the child custody modification. A change in the custody order must also be in the child’s best interests.
What Penalties Can My Ex Get for Violating the Child Custody Agreement?
Your ex can be held in contempt of court if they disobey child custody orders. You can file for child custody contempt in Texas as long as you can prove that the other parent failed in their obligation to observe the terms of the order. If the order is not specific and clearly stated, it may be that the most the court can do is to clarify the order and modify the language so that it must be obeyed from that point forward.
Texas law allows a judge to impose various punishments for contempt of court depending on the violation’s severity, nature, and frequency. The more severe and frequent the offense, the more severe the potential punishment. Here are the possible consequences:
- Jail time: Contempt of court can be punished by jail time for up to six months for each violation. The punishment is cited explicitly for child custody or visitation order violation. The jail time increases for more severe or frequent violations. The jail time may also be probated such that no time is actually served unless the violations continue.
- Fines: A person held in contempt of court can face a fine of up to $500 for each violation. The sum can add up to a pretty large amount if a pattern of non-compliance is established.
- Attorney fees and court costs: A judge can issue a “money judgment” requiring the offender to pay attorney fees and the avoidable court expenditures had the offender complied with the order.
- Reduction of privileges: The court can reduce certain rights for the offender found in contempt. For example, the court may reduce their ability to see the child as part of a modification to the original custody agreement.
- A complete change of primary custodian of the child. In more extreme cases, the court may decide to completely change the custody arrangement that is not working, even possibly changing which parent has primary custody.
A Legal Professional Helping Protect for Your Child’s Best Interests
If your ex-spouse fails to comply with a child custody order, it can strain the relationship between you and your child. If you’re unfairly treated, and this happens to you, talk to a child custody lawyer in San Antonio to help remedy the situation. Your lawyer may advise you that it is time to file a motion to enforce or may guide you on how to gather more evidence before you file.
At our firm, we can help you make the best decisions for your family in the best interest of your children. We can also guide you through the legal process and provide the support you need as you try to make the situation right. Talk to us to get started.