In an ideal world, all divorced or separated parents would abide by child support and child custody agreements, as determined by the court. However, as all too many parents have come to realize, this is not always the case. Sometimes, an individual may refuse to follow child support or custody agreements, leading to a complicated and confusing situation for the other parent.
How should you proceed if your child’s other parent is not making child support payments? How can the legal system help you get other party to abide by their agreements? What if your ex simply ignores visitation agreements?
The instances are a primary reason it is so vital to ensure that your child custody agreement has been approved by the court. Once a judge has formally issued and approved your agreement, that agreement is considered legally binding. Subsequently, you will have the power of the courts behind you to enforce the court order.
Can Child Custody Still Be Enforced if I Don’t Have a Court Order in MO?
Unfortunately, if there is no official court order and you instead have an informal custody agreement, it will be much more difficult to enforce custody. In this instance, custody can only be enforced if a child is in immediate danger. When a severe situation arises, it is possible for the courts or the police to intervene and make official custody adjustments to protect the child.
In the absence of any provable danger these instances, the best route to enforcing your informal agreement is attempting to negotiate with the other parent. Through negotiations, you can attempt to reach an agreement that works better for everyone, especially if the current arrangement is problematic or difficult to follow. Then, as soon as possible, take your agreement to court and have a judge approve the compromise as an official custody order. If issues persist, you will then have the backing of the court to enforce the order.
What if My Ex-Spouse Does Not Follow a Child Support, Custody, or Visitation Order?
Fortunately, Missouri family court takes a failure to meet child support or custody obligations quite seriously. If one of the parents involved in the child support or custody agreement is willfully neglecting child support or failing to provide visitation, the other party should file a Motion for Contempt. After a Motion for Contempt is filed, a court will be able to enter “appropriate orders” addressing a parent’s refusal or failure to abide by the court’s official orders. Whether the situation pertains to child custody, child support, or alimony, the Missouri court can hold the non-complying parent in contempt of court.
The opposing party, or the parent who has been willfully neglecting court-issued agreements, will receive proper notice of the motion. They will then have the opportunity to explain their position in court, or begin to mount a proper defense. After hearing the explanation, the court could determine that the non-complying parent is in contempt of the court’s order. If this outcome occurs, the offending individual could be ordered to serve jail time until the actions leading to the contempt are addressed and resolved. In the case of child support, the court may order the individual in contempt to be jailed, until the point at which all child support currently in arrears is fully paid.
When Should You Take Your Child Custody Complaints to Court?
As long as you have a court ordered agreement at your disposal, the process of court enforcement is fairly straightforward. However, it can be difficult to decide whether it is truly appropriate to take the issue to court. You may be tempted to negotiate with the other parent, even if previous negotiations have proven unfruitful. Is there a chance you’ll be able to negotiate with the other party in order to resolve the issue? Clearly, this is highly dependent on the individual circumstances of your relationship with the other parent. If you feel negotiation is a possibility, consider using a mediator before escalating the issue and taking it to court.
However, remember that the court’s top priority is the best interest and wellbeing of the children involved. Before taking the issue to court, it is important to consider whether an adjustment would be in the child’s best interest. In many instances, ensuring your child has adequate financial support and full visitation time with both parents is certainly in the child’s best interest.
Custody Issues You Should Take to Court
If you are currently experiencing a serious breach of your child custody agreement, and do not believe negotiation will be fruitful, then it may be time to take the issue to court. Serious custody issues worth taking to court may include:
- The other parent regularly arrives late or early to visitation exchanges
- The other parent frequently misses visitation exchanges
- The other parent regularly interferes with your own visitation time
- The other party fails to take the child to the doctor, to school, or to any court-ordered counseling sessions, if relevant
- The other party abuses drugs and alcohol in front of the children, or their use of drugs or alcohol interferes with their ability to care for their children
If you are experiencing a series of custody or visitation violations, begin by keeping detailed records of each infraction. When your case is discussed in court, these records can be especially useful in showing a pattern of behavior that violates the court order. Make sure your record is both detailed and specific, including the date, time, and a description of the problem. Further, keep any police reports or other papers that may help you prove your case during a court hearing, to include both emails and phone records.
Consult With a St. Louis Child Custody Attorney
If your ex-partner is refusing to adhere to a court-ordered child custody or support agreement, it may be time to consult with an experienced attorney. With the help of a dedicated St. Louis child custody lawyer, you can ensure a favorable outcome that will provide for the best interests of your child. Schedule a consultation today by contacting the family law attorneys at Stange Law Firm online.