What happens when a parent violates a custody order?

Divorce ranks at the top of traumatic life events even under the best of circumstances. It is painful for the parents, but the impact is often far greater for the children of divorce. Although most parents genuinely love their children and would not do anything to intentionally harm them, the strong emotions that come up during the negotiations over splitting marital assets and custody can cause them to act out in harmful ways.

New Jersey courts will encourage parents to come together to agree on custody and the visitation schedule unless there is evidence of domestic violence or substance abuse in the home.

When there is conflict; however, it can affect a court-ordered custody arrangement, especially if one parent violates the agreement. Burlington County parents may want legal support in such a situation so that they can protect their child’s best interests.

Legal actions for violating a custody order

The ideal outcome should be divorce cooperative and even friendly co-parenting or custodial and visitation schedule. However, many parents face the reality of unresolved negativity, resentment, or even open hostility to a custody and visitation order.

When one parent interferes with parenting time by taking the child for longer than agreed, showing up when they should not be there, or even taking the child across state lines, it can be cause for a criminal complaint.

Although it is best to treat such an event as a misunderstanding and try to resolve it amicably, if it happens repeatedly or becomes more extreme, the interfering parent can be charged with contempt of court.

A criminal complaint filing may result in the court serving the parent first a temporary order and then a final order. Violations to a custody order can result in fines, compensatory parenting time, or even a modification of the custody order.

Acting in the best interests of the child

A judge will examine many factors when determining what arrangement will be in the best interests of the child, which in New Jersey include:

  • The stability of the home environment
  • How the child interacts with each parent
  • The fitness of the parents
  • The parent’s work responsibilities

There are two types of custody, each of which the parents may share or have alone. With physical custody, the parent has physical care of the child, such as providing an adequate home environment, feeding and clothing. Legal custody is the parent’s right to make decisions for the child concerning their education, religious formation, or medical care.