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How Do I Report Contempt Of Court Related To Child Custody And Visitation In California?

The Marble Team

How Do I Report Contempt Of Court Related To Child Custody And Visitation In California?

Family Law
| 5 min
6 minutes

In child custody cases that go to court, judges must consider a wide range of factors. Having taken into account all the evidence, they then issue a formal court order that confirms parental arrangements: where the child lives (joint or sole physical custody), who has a say on their upbringing (joint or sole legal custody), visitation rights (access for the non-custodial parent), and any payable child maintenance.

 A court order is a legally binding document. If one parent breaches the conditions, they may be in contempt of court, potentially making them liable to civil and criminal penalties.

If your ex repeatedly breaks the conditions of your court order, you may be tempted to go back to court to enforce your rights. However, that might not always be the wisest course of action. In this article, we’ll explain why. We’ll also outline ways in which you can enforce the order without going to court. What’s more, we’ll conclude by covering what you need to do if going back to court is your only option. 

Read on for a clear explanation of how to handle child custody and visitation violations in California and where contempt of court fits in.

 

Ensure Custody and Visitation Orders Are Actually Enforceable

You can anticipate and avoid many of the issues associated with custody and visitation orders by ensuring your original court order includes a comprehensive parenting plan. If all eventualities are carefully spelled out, it’s much easier to interpret and enforce the order.

It’s also worth re-reading your order in the event of any subsequent issues. You may find that you misunderstood the original terms and conditions or that minor breaches are insignificant and unenforceable.


Keep A Copy Of The Order In A Safe Place

Once the judge has ruled on your case, both parents receive a copy of the court order. It hardly needs saying that this is an extremely important document, not just for you, but also for your children. So make sure you keep your copy in a safe place. Better still, make a second copy, just in case you misplace the original.

If you call the cops or speak to a lawyer about enforcing the agreement, the first thing they’ll ask for is the court order. So make sure your copy is always safe, secure, and accessible. 


Ensure Any Other Related Parties Have a Copy Of The Order

It’s vital to ensure that any other parties mentioned in the order have a copy. If your agreement states that one or both of you can pick the children up from school, make sure that the principal has a copy and understands the arrangement. Likewise, if you use a mutual contact for pick-up and hand-over, then that person should have a copy.

Giving a copy of your order to other related parties isn’t just good manners - it also ensures that everyone fully understands their role and responsibilities.


Track All Custody and Visitation Violations Including Dates, Times, And Details

If you do want to pursue a contempt of court case, your chances of success are much more significant when you have compelling evidence. So be sure to keep a detailed record of any custody and visitation violations. It’s crucial to include dates, times, and complete details of precisely what happened.

Why is keeping a detailed journal of any violations so important? Because having a comprehensive paper trail can make all the difference in court.


Call The Police To Enforce The Order

You’re entitled to call the local police to enforce your court order. Before you do so, however, it’s worth exploring all the alternative solutions. If you and your ex have significant disagreements, calling the cops could make a bad situation even worse.

Perhaps you have a mutual, trusted friend or family member who could intervene and help to resolve any differences. You might consider contacting the child abduction and recovery unit at your local DA’s office for assistance. Or maybe you can let the bad behavior go and see the bigger picture if this is a one-off event or even applies to your circumstances. 

Remember that however stressful the situation is for you, it may be doubly so for your kids. Think very carefully about the consequences before you involve the police. That isn’t to say you should jeopardize the safety of your children and yourself, however.


Contact The Child Abduction Unit In Your District Attorney’s Office

Thankfully, cases of parents kidnapping their children are extremely rare. But if you’ve got any concerns with this, you should contact the child abduction unit in your District Attorney’s office. Also, there’s a range of sensible precautions that you can take, like having up-to-date pictures of your child and ex, a record of your ex’s contact details, and other relevant information.

It’s worth seeking professional legal advice if you’re worried that your ex might abduct your children. Preventing abduction is far easier than dealing with it once it’s happened.


File A Contempt Action In Court

Some might say that only when you’ve exhausted all other options should you consider going back to court to file a contempt action. It’s a highly complex process, and you’ll almost certainly need a legal professional to guide you through it all. That said, if a contempt action is what’s required to ensure you maintain a strong relationship with your kids, then it’s worth it.

How A Lawyer Can Assist With Contempt Filings

If you’re considering a contempt action, you’ll almost certainly have to consult with a family lawyer. They can confirm whether you have a case, or they may be able to suggest solutions that remove the need to go to court.

If you do have a case, then a lawyer can guide you through the process, help with form-filling and the submission, and ensure that you present your evidence in the best way possible when in court. 


Bottom Line

Should your partner repeatedly break the terms of your child custody and visitation court order, the ultimate sanction is to file for contempt. But consider that you should only do this after you’ve exhausted every other possible solution if this works for your situation. To learn more about filing a contempt action - and the alternatives - contact us for a free consultation to discuss your case.


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