Child custody arrangements or court orders are intended to ensure that both parents can have a full, loving relationship with their child or children. When one parent violates the terms of the custody arrangement or order, the other parent can feel as though their rights and their relationship with their child or children are being jeopardized. This can leave the aggrieved parent feeling angry and frustrated.
If you believe your ex has violated your family’s child custody arrangement in Maryland, you should educate yourself about your options for responding to you ex’s actions and asserting your rights to a full relationship with your child or children.
How to Deal with Custody Violations
In Maryland, a parent has three options for dealing with their ex violating a child custody agreement or court order. First, a parent may file a motion in court to hold the other parent in contempt. A contempt motion can only be filed when a custody arrangement has been set forth in a court order.
If parents have their own custody agreement that was not incorporated into a court order, then no order exists to hold the offending parent in contempt of. In a contempt order, a court may (if in the child’s or children’s best interest):
- Order that missed visitation periods be rescheduled
- Modify the terms of a custody or visitation order to impose additional conditions that will ensure compliance in the future
- Assess legal fees and costs against the violating party
In practice, a first contempt order usually amounts to little more than a “slap on the wrist”. However, it sets a foundation to support greater sanctions in the event the parent in contempt persists in violating the custody order.
The second option for dealing with custody violations involves filing a Motion to Enforce the Agreement. Sometimes these motions are filed in conjunction with a Petition for Contempt. Other times, they are filed with a Motion to Modify.
Finally, under certain circumstances, a parent may have the option of filing a tort lawsuit against the other parent who violates the terms of a custody agreement or court order. Tort actions for custody violations rarely succeed, usually only in cases where a parent has substantially interfered with the other parent’s rights under the custody agreement. This might include denying any access to the child or children or taking the child or children to another state or country without the other parent’s or the court’s permission.
How a Lawyer Could Help
When your ex has violated the terms of your family’s custody arrangement, a lawyer could help you advocate for your rights by:
- Explaining your legal rights and options based on the circumstances of the other parent’s violation.
- Collecting evidence to support your claim of violation of the custody agreement or court order.
- Filing a motion for contempt, or a breach of contract or tort lawsuit as appropriate.
- Advocating on your behalf in court at a motion hearing or at trial in a lawsuit.
- Pursuing modifications to your existing custody arrangement to secure missed parenting time or to ensure the other parent’s future compliance with the agreement or order.
If your child’s or children’s other parent has violated your custody agreement or court-ordered custody arrangement, contact The McKeon Law Firm for an initial consultation to speak with a Bethesda child custody lawyer about your legal options for responding to custody violations and asserting your and your child’s or children’s rights.