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What happens to a parent who violates a custody order?

Custody orders are in place to protect children and parental rights. They dictate with whom a child will live, whether a parent will have visitation, and who can make legal decisions for a child. They are legal orders with which parents must comply. 

Unfortunately, some parents make mistakes and bad decisions and wind up violating an order. While minor violations may not warrant harsh legal action, there are consequences for violating custody orders.

Examples of custody violations

There are various ways a person might violate a custody order. Some examples can include:

  • Failing to return a child to the other parent at the scheduled time
  • Repeatedly failing to show up for visitation
  • Disrupting the other parent’s time with a child with texts, phone calls or other means of communication with the child
  • Taking a child out of state or the country without permission
  • Neglecting a child’s schedule and needs during parenting time

These and other violations can put a child’s safety and well-being in danger, in addition to violating the other parent’s court-ordered rights. 

Consequences of custody violations

Depending on the frequency and severity of a particular custody violation, a parent could face a variety of consequences. In New Jersey, the courts could order:

  • Compensatory parenting time with the non-violating parent
  • Financial remedies, including costs of child care
  • Modification of a parenting plan to eliminate issues with transportation and custody exchanges
  • Loss of parenting time for the parent who violated the order
  • Counseling
  • Community service
  • Jail time

Remedying custody violations

In cases involving violations, parents would be wise to communicate with each other as soon as possible. Clearing up confusion or simply having an opportunity to explain the situation can address the issue and ensure it does not happen again.

If that is not possible or successful, you can pursue mediation or file a criminal complaint.

In any situation involving interference with parenting time, it is crucial for parents to document violations and keep track of any expenses incurred as a result of the violation. This information can be essential in supporting requests for legal remedies, including custody order modification or enforcement.