3

Suppose a parenting agreement that is part of divorce in Georgia, U.S., specifies that parent A shall deliver a child to parent B in the morning before school. One day parent A, without notice to parent B, delivers the child directly to school.

What legal mechanisms, if any, can B use to prevent future violations by A of the parenting agreement?

4

Beware: The details will depend not only on jurisdiction, but also on the details of the parents, the parenting agreement and, of course, on the situation of the child. However, here are some general guidelines (mostly independent of jurisdiction):

Ideally, you should resolve the problem by non-legal mechanisms. However, you may have to resort to legal means if this fails. I would advocate a gradual escalation of your reaction:

  • First, do not assume malice. Nicely ask parent A why the plan was not followed. Maybe it was a simple oversight, maybe there was an emergency? Try to find out, and decide whether the change was warranted.
  • If there is no satisfactory answer, clearly remind A that the parenting plan is binding for everyone, and that it is important for both the child and the parents that they can rely on it. Stress that any last-minute changes must be discussed as soon as possible, even in emergencies. This should be done in writing, maybe even by registered mail.
  • If the problem repeats, send a last letter indicating that you will seek legal remedy if the problem persists. This letter may work better when sent by a lawyer. A letter from your lawyer to A's lawyer (assuming you both have one) may also prompt A's lawyer to explain to A that they are hurting the child and themselves by violating the parenting plan.
  • Finally, if all the above fails, go to court. You could ask for a change in the parenting agreement, maybe with less frequent changeovers, or with changeovers that are easier to arrange, or at an earlier time, such that a delay causes less problems. You could also ask for a formal permission to have the child fetched by the police or similar on subsequent violations (though that is a rather desperate option, and may not be available). If you reach this point, following the previous steps should give you a fighting chance to prevail in court, as you have demonstrated that you tried everything to make the agreement work. Courts generally take a dim view of people who violate an official agreement.

In Georgia specifically, like in most US states, violation of a court-ordered parenting agreement by one parent is a serious matter. The other parent can ask the court to hold the parent in contempt of court. The court can then order a number of consequences for these violations, such as awarding the other parent extra visits or monetary compensation, up to and including sending the parent to jail (this only happens in extreme cases).

The article Violation of Custody and Visitation Orders in Georgia gives a good overview.

0

Web research turned up some relevant sites. Some sites say that it is a crime to withhold access counter to a court approved parenting plan.

What legal options exist to enforce strict compliance with parenting agreements?

  • building a groundwork and documentation of attempts to forestall this happening will increase the likelihood of prevailing in court. (But the advice is written by a non-lawyer.)

https://www.divorcenet.com/states/georgia/contempt-faq

  • blocking visitation or blocking communication are crimes and interstate interference with custody is always a felony.
  • police will only be interested if there is a physical danger to the child
  • a contempt hearing cannot result in a change in custody but can result in a change to visitation, such as “make-up” visitation, or holding the interfering parent in contempt of court

Anyone who helps withhold visitation rights may well be an accessory before or after the fact and liable to the SAME penalty as the offending parent.

The following sites say that generally the police will NOT be of assistance unless there is a danger involved. The sites provide some options.

https://mensdivorce.com/police-child-custody/ "Unless expressed consent from a judge in the language of the custodial agreement in that district, the police cannot enforce a civil order of custody."

https://www.stephensmargolin.com/blog/2009/01/divorce-myth-the-police-will-enforce-my-parenting-plan/

  • "no immediate remedy exists for parenting time violations, and law enforcement can only assist to return a child to the custodial parent with special permission from the court."

https://www.centraljerseyfamilylaw.com/blog/2016/may/police-and-parenting-time-disputes-a-special-ble/

https://dadsdivorce.com/articles/violating-child-custody-orders-should-you-call-the-police/

General advice on visitation and child pickup/dropoff:

https://www.collinsattorneys.com/divorceblawg/divorce/10-things-not-to-do-during-a-c/

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.