Kevin Qualls Family Law
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What can you do if your ex violates their child custody order?

In California, a court-ordered child custody and visitation schedule is a legally binding document. Therefore, it needs to be clear as to which parent has the child in their care and when. This includes not just daily or weekend custody and visitation, but also special events such as birthdays, holidays and vacations. All parties caring for the child or exchanging the child should have a copy of the order. If the parents informally agree to change the existing child custody and visitation schedule, they should still go to court for a new order reflecting these changes.

Unfortunately, just because a child custody and visitation court order exists doesn't mean it will always be followed, leading to a custody dispute. While a delay in drop-off or pick-up due to bad traffic might be understandable, purposefully violating the child custody order by either refusing to return the child after visitation is done or refusing to let the child visit the other parent is a serious situation that may require court intervention.

In the case that one parent violates the child custody and visitation schedule, the other parent has a number of remedies. First, they can contact the police and ask them to enforce the child custody and visitation schedule. Another option for parents is to get in touch with the Child Abduction and Recovery Unit of their county's district attorney's office.

Finally, a parent can go to the court to pursue a contempt action. This means the parent is requesting that the court find that the other parent purposely failed to follow the child custody and visitation order and, therefore, it should be enforced. If you do decide to take court action, it can help to have a written record of all the times the other parent violated the child custody and visitation schedule. Pursuing a contempt action can be quite complex and can have significant consequences. Therefore, parents seeking one may want to contact an attorney to ensure that the issue is handled appropriately.

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