You cannot ignore or disobey court orders. In child custody Judgments or divorce Judgments, the parenting time/plan outlined in the agreement is legally binding, and parents must adhere to the terms the court set or that both parties agreed upon.
Your co-parent may be ignoring the obligations in your custody arrangement if they:
- Repeatedly pick-up or drop-off your child later than you agreed/outlined in the orders
- Keep your child overnight when they are not permitted to
- Restrict your access to the child unduly
If your custody or visitation rights are being restricted or interfered with and you have a court-ordered agreement, you can take legal action to protect your parental rights. In this article, we will discuss how to enforce or modify your child custody orders. However, before asking the courts to interfere, you may consider taking some of the following actions:
- Talking with the other parent. If you believe that you can have a civil discussion with the other parent, you can resolve your issues without involving the courts, which can save you both time and money.
- Documenting everything. The filing party will need to prove that their parental rights are being denied. Saving communications, taking photosand documenting what the other parent does to violate the order can help you strengthen your case.
- Speaking with our attorneys. Our attorneys can craft a letter to your child’s other parent that reminds them of their legal obligations and expresses your willingness to ask the court to intervene. We can also help you prepare for court and file the necessary motions if litigation is necessary.
It is important to note that you should not retaliate or lash out by withholding child support or bad-mouthing the other parent online. Vengeful actions can have consequences of their own and will likely not solve your issues.
Enforcing Child Custody Orders in Missouri
If a parent’s court-ordered custody, visitation, or third-party custody rights are restricted, they can file a Family Access Motion, which asks the courts to intervene. To file a Family Access Motion, the petitioner will need to know the:
- Name of the county where your custody orders were entered or modified
- Name(s) of the person(s) who has denied or interfered with your parenting time
- Information about the violations, such as when they occurred and details of the interference/restrictions
- Actions that you would like the court to take, such as fine the other party, pay your attorney fees, and/or participate in alternative dispute resolution (such as mediation)
Once you file the motion, those named in the petition will be served and can file a response. At the subsequent hearing, parties can submit evidence to substantiate their claims, such as witness testimony, records of past communication, etc.
Under Missouri Revised Statute § 452.400, if the orders have been interfered with or restricted without good cause, a judge can:
- Require the violator to pay for counseling between the child and parent (to mend their relationship)
- Require the violator to pay a fine of up to $500 and/or any attorney fees and court costs
- Require the violator to post bond or security (to discourage future violations to court orders)
- Require the violator to participate in counseling (that highlights the importance of a child having a relationship with both parents)
- Award the aggrieved party compensatory (make-up) time for no less than the denied time
Modifying Child Custody Orders
In Missouri, a parent can modify their custody Judgment if it will be in the best interest of their child, and they can prove, including but not limited to, that:
- There has been a change in circumstances
- The original order no longer honors the best interest of the child
Circumstances that may warrant a modification include but are not limited to:
- Instances of physical abuse or neglect
- An unfit living situation
- Changes in a parent’s mental or physical health
- Changes in what the child’s needs are
- Failure to allow either parent appropriate parenting time
Modification Judgments may be agreed upon by the parties.A contested modification proceeding may involve some or all of the following steps:
- Filing the Motion to Modify
- Serving the other parent.
- Completing a Litigant Awareness program as well as a Parent Education program
- Participating in mediation
- Attending a pre-trial hearing (if mediation is unsuccessful)
- Attending trial
- Receiving the judge’s decision
To file a Motion to Modify Child Custody, the petitioner may need to include the following information which includes but is not limted to the following:
- The date of the last custody judgment as well as who filed the original petition
- The names and ages of all children included in order
- Whether either party pays child support (as changes to custody can sometimes lead to changes in child support orders)
- The reason you are asking for the modification
- The changes in circumstances that led you to file
- Information on themselves, the other parent, and their child(ren), such as their name, partial social security number, employment status, and address
- Actions that you would like the court to take, such as change the legal or physical custody determinations, change the visitation schedule, or alter the child support arrangements.
The petitioner should also timely file a Parenting Plan.
Contact Our Family Law Attorneys Today
At Galmiche Law Firm, P.C., our attorneys have 35 years of combined legal experience, and we will to represent you as you fight to protect your parental rights. We are equipped to help parents seeking to:
- Enforce their custody agreement
- Modify their custody arrangement
- Petition for custody (if they do not have a court-ordered custody agreement in place)
To discuss your case, schedule a free, initial consultation online today or call (636) 552-4841.