Mary Ellen Flynn, Attorney
Co-parenting with an ex is not always easy, but it’s certainly more difficult if your ex refuses to follow and comply with a Custody Order or a Custody Agreement. Fortunately, you have legal options and remedies available.
An ex can violate a custody arrangement in all different ways – whether it’s chronic lateness for exchanges, interference with virtual visitation, unauthorized decision-making, or something more serious, such as domestic violence or neglect of your child. This blog advises how best to handle the situation and the steps you can take when your ex doesn’t follow your custody arrangement.
If pleading with your ex to abide by the custody order doesn’t work or is not an option, then here is what you can do next:
Have An Attorney Send Your Ex a Letter
A letter from an attorney can go a long way. Your attorney will detail for your ex how they’ve specifically violated the custody order and the possible consequences if they continue. An attorney’s letter can encourage your ex to take your complaints more seriously since they will know that you know your rights and are prepared to take legal action if necessary.
Attend Mediation or use Collaborative Law Process
Mediation and the Collaborative Law Process offers you and your ex the opportunity to work out issues without having to go to court. At mediation, you and your ex will meet with a mediator – a neutral party is hired to guide negotiations and help you two work towards a resolution. You can attend unrepresented or with an attorney, who would be there to advise you of your custody rights, consult on the pros and cons of a new agreement. In the Collaborative Law Process, you and your lawyer will meet with your Ex and their Lawyer to resolve the ongoing custody issues. Once there is a written agreement, you can submit it to the court to make it a Court Order.
File a Contempt Action
If you have a custody arrangement that is part of a court order, you can file for contempt of court. A contempt action is how you tell the court: “My ex is not abiding by the custody arrangement you ordered, and I need the Court to enforce its terms.” If the court finds that your ex willfully violated the order, the court can order a range of remedies depending on the circumstances. For example, if your ex withheld your child from spending spring break with you, you might request a week of “make-up visitation.” The court can also impose sanctions such as your Ex paying your attorney’s fees, and can make changes to the custody arrangement to help resolve the issue going forward.
Change or Create a Custody Order
Your ex’s violations may be due to a material change of circumstances since your last custody order (a parent moved, the child’s needs have changed drastically, etc.), in which case you can file to modify the custody arrangement as needed. On the other hand, if you and your ex do not yet have a custody order, then take your ex’s violations as a sign that it’s time to get one. A family law attorney can help you secure a custody order so that you can access all of the court’s enforcement powers detailed above.
Universal Tips – In all cases, it is essential to remember the following:
- Be organized. I recommend starting a list or otherwise keeping track of the details of your ex’s violations, including dates and times. Keep written communications and all related documents somewhere safe so you can easily access them and send them to your attorney.
- Two wrongs do not make a right. Do not respond to your ex’s violations by violating the order or creating your own remedies (i.e., having “make-up visitation” without an agreement, withholding child support). You will weaken your complaints against your ex and arguments to the court to agree with you as the trusted co-parent.
- Remember, it’s all about the kids. When it comes to custody, the court’s decisions are most focused on the children’s best interests. Although it is not always easy, keep this in mind when it comes to dealing with your ex, especially in how you talk to them or about them in front of the child.
To learn more about your options and find the best course of action, you can contact us.
About Andalman & Flynn, P.C.: Founded in 1998 in downtown Silver Spring, Maryland, Andalman & Flynn has forged a distinguished reputation for legal excellence. The firm practices family law throughout Maryland and the District of Columbia, and represents individuals seeking disability benefits throughout the country. The firm focuses on cases that impact the rights of everyone, and are there for clients when responsive legal help is most critical. The firm has provided legal analysis on national and local television and radio, and their attorneys often testify before legislative bodies and are routinely invited to contribute to prominent legal publications. For more information about Andalman & Flynn, please visit the website at andalmanflynn.com or call 301.563.6685