You’re finally ready to move forward with your life after finalizing the terms of your child custody and visitation agreement. But what happens if your former spouse violates a condition of the visitation order by preventing you from seeing your child or consistently dropping them off late at the meeting point? What are your options for enforcing a visitation order?
Understanding Enforcement Actions and Contempt of Court in Family Law
If your co-parent violates the terms of your visitation order, your first response is likely to file an enforcement action with the court, essentially requesting that they step in and compel the other parent to follow the terms you both agreed to.
Should they refuse to or continue to violate the order, they could be acting in contempt of court, in which case a judge could pursue various civil penalties. If your ex-spouse violates any conditions of the child visitation order, you can file a petition for contempt. The court will issue a “Show Cause” Order and writ of summons indicating the date and time of the court appearance. Your former spouse must show up to explain why they didn’t comply with the initial court order.
You must also appear in court and provide evidence of the violation. You must bring the original visitation order to show the actions required of your ex, prove they didn’t fulfill their obligation, and establish their ability to do what they were supposed to do but didn’t.
Penalties for Contempt of Court in Maryland
If the judge determines your former spouse violated the visitation order, they can enter another order to compel them to obey the conditions of the visitation arrangement. A contempt of court order can include numerous remedies and consequences depending on the violation, such as:
- Law enforcement assistance in returning the child withheld by one parent
- Make-up visitation for the missed days
- Being made to pay attorneys’ fees and costs for the contempt proceeding
- Adjustment of the custody schedule
Enforcing a Visitation Order without a Contempt Action
A contempt of court action can lead to additional issues. You might have had an amicable relationship until your ex violated the visitation order. Although you’re frustrated by their behavior, you may not want to pursue contempt proceedings. Severe penalties could force your former spouse to follow the court order, but the legal case can also ruin your co-parenting relationship.
You might have other options besides a contempt case. Consult your family law attorney to determine whether another method suits your needs better before filing your contempt of court action. That way, you can preserve your relationship and avoid unnecessary civil or criminal consequences.
Other options can include:
- Attending mediation with your ex to resolve the problem and adjust the visitation agreement
- Creating a new schedule to accommodate changing schedules, needs, and other factors
- Hiring an attorney to help negotiate compliance
- Using collaborative law procedures to identify and address the reason for not complying with the order
Get Legal Help Enforcing Your Visitation Order
You might think a court order means your former spouse will always do what they’re supposed to do while co-parenting your child. However, they might decide they don’t like the arrangement anymore and refuse to cooperate. When that happens, you need an experienced attorney to protect your rights.
At The McKeon Law Firm, our legal team understands what’s at stake. Your child’s needs and well-being are essential, and maintaining a consistent schedule is necessary. We can help you pursue action against your ex to enforce the child visitation order.
Call us at (301) 417-9222 or (202) 742-1800, or send us an email for an appointment. We have conveniently located offices in Gaithersburg and Bethesda to serve your needs.