After much thought, and probably many sleepless nights, you finally have your child custody order and visitation schedule. Everyone knows what to expect regarding exchanges, visitation, and communication. You have a document that explains it all and that is signed by a judge so it is enforceable.
Then, everyone’s world was turned upside down by the COVID-19 pandemic.
The things we were certain of, we are no longer certain of. If you are no longer certain if your judgment applies – then you have come to the right place.
Should I still comply with my judgment?
If you have a judgment signed by a judge, then it is an ORDER OF THE COURT.
That means that you must comply with it.
Failure to abide by an order of the court may result in the other parent filing a motion with the court seeking to find you in contempt of court. This means that you have willfully and knowingly violated a court order, which is serious.
If you are found by a court to have willfully and knowingly violated a court order, the court may impose one or more of many different punishments on you for your contempt, including:
- Making you pay fines;
- Forcing you to make up visitation days that the other parent lost;
- Compelling your attendance at a parenting education course;
- Compelling your attendance at counseling or mediation;
- Forcing you to pay costs and reasonable attorney’s fees of the other party; and
- In extreme circumstances, jail time.
The most common punishment is forcing you to pay costs and attorney’s fees for the other parent, which can quickly get expensive.
What if the other parent ignores the court order more than once?
Even more concerning is that if a parent shows a “pattern of willful and intentional” violations of their court order, without good cause, that may be a material change in circumstance which may become a basis for modifying an existing custody or visitation order.
In other words, if someone continues to violate their court order without good cause, that may allow the other party to change the existing order.
So… under what circumstances can you disobey your court order of visitation?
Only by agreement.
The safest way is for you and the other parent to agree to the change. The Order is the law between the two of you, unless you agree otherwise.
For instance, if you would like to have extra time with your child on a Saturday in which your child is supposed to visit with the other parent, and the other parent agrees to allowing you to have this extra time, you are not in violation of your court order.
HOWEVER, always make sure that this agreement to deviate from the Order is in writing – whether in text message, email, or Our Family Wizard message.
That is the only “safe” way to disobey a court order.
You may run into circumstances in which obeying a court order is impossible, or puts your child in danger or at risk. However, everyone’s definition of “impossible”, “danger”, and “risk” are different.
It is always best to speak with an experienced family law attorney to determine if your circumstances warrant disobeying a current court order.
Our team at Stanley-Wallace Law is here for you
With the current “stay at home” orders and recommendations regarding social distancing, many parents are concerned about their children and have questions surrounding whether or not they should be following visitation orders as they normally would. The attorneys at Stanley-Wallace Law are here and ready to help you decide the best course of action for your family during this uncertain time. Let us help you. Give us a call at 985-288-4621.