At the conclusion of child custody matters, the court may have issued a parenting time or visitation order or decree, which establishes the obligations of each parent regarding time spent with their children. Unfortunately, circumstances may arise in which one parent may not be able to adhere to their requirements, and visitation may not happen as outlined in the decree. If this occurs infrequently, the parents may be able to work something out together to ensure each gets to spend time with their children. However, if denial of parenting time or visitation is willful and/or in retaliation against the other parent, this can be a serious issue that must be resolved by going through family court.
Disobeying a Court Order
Because a visitation decree is court-ordered, it is legally binding, and failure to abide by terms is considered a contempt of court. There are many reasons a parent may withhold visitation, such as in retaliation for the other parent not paying child support or because one parent doesn't approve of the other's dating partner.
Regardless of the reason, or whether the person denying parenting time is the residential or non-residential parent, any action that goes against the initial decree is considered a violation and can result in serious consequences.
It's also important to note that, although one parent may be denying the other visitation, that does not give the other parent the right to withhold child support payments. Visitation and support are two separate matters, and failure to meet court-ordered financial obligations is also contempt, and the court can take action to remedy the situation and penalize the violator.
Penalties for Failing to Comply with Visitation Orders
If one parent is withholding visitation from the other, the parent whose rights have been violated can file a petition with the court to enforce the order. They can also seek to have the order modified to request a different arrangement that may prevent the withholding of visitation.
However, if either remedy is unsuccessful, and the denial of visitation persists, the parent can initiate an action to hold the non-complying parent in contempt of court. A hearing will be held to determine whether or not a violation has been committed.
If the non-complying parent is found guilty, they could be subject to the following penalties:
- First offense: Fine of up to $250 and/or imprisonment for up to 30 days
- Second offense: Fine of up to $500 and/or imprisonment for up to 60 days
- Third or subsequent offense: Fine of up to $1,000 and/or imprisonment for up to 90 days
In addition to the penalties listed above, the non-complying parent may be ordered to pay court costs and attorney's fees. Additionally, the court may award compensatory parenting time, which may be enforced just as the initial decree.
If you are involved in a child custody matter, contact L. Patrick Mulligan & Associates, LLC at (937) 685-7006 today. Our Dayton attorneys will provide the compassionate legal support you need throughout your case.