What happens if a party denies custody and visitation?

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In divorce and child custody matters, courts issue custody orders at the end of the case. In some states, these are referred to as parenting plans.

Sometimes, a temporary order, known as a PDL Order in some states, is entered while the case is pending and before a final judgment is entered.

In some cases, a party might think about denying the other party their custody or visitation time. They might even feel as if they have a good reason to do so. Take cases where they believe abuse or neglect is taking place.

Thus, they might wonder what will happen if they deny the other party their custody time to protect their children. They might contemplate whether or not they will get in trouble or suffer an adverse result if they do so.

First of all, any party wanting an answer to this question ought to talk to a lawyer who is competent and licensed in their jurisdiction. The reality is every case is different. The terms contained in a custody judgment can also be remarkably different.

That said, most parties ought to think about modifying their custody order versus just denying the other parent their custody time. In some jurisdictions, there also might be options available like a child order of protection. Perhaps they might even think about making a hotline call to family services. A temporary restraining order might be an option in some jurisdictions.

But where a party simply denies the other party their custody time, there can be adverse results. A judge might ultimately frown upon this behavior and that parent in contempt of court. On a contempt order, attorneys’ fees could be ordered, make-up visitation time and even jail time in extreme cases.

A judge might also opt to modify custody, but not in the way that the parent denying custody time wanted. It might result in that parent actually losing custody or visitation time due to the prior violations of court orders.

There can also be criminal implications for a parent who denies custody time. It is vital to look at the laws in a particular state. But denying custody time can result in crimes being committed generically known as interference with custody or even parental kidnapping and abduction.

If the abuse or neglect is severe, and there were no legal avenues for protecting the children short of denying a parent their custody time, a judge might find that the violation was not willful. But this can still be a risky path for most parents to go down. The reality is the vast majority of parties (unless the children face imminent and/or severe danger) should abide by court orders and not violate them. But, again, anybody facing this dilemma ought to retain and hire a lawyer immediately to give them appropriate advice.

DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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