Custodial Interference Can Backfire
Can a parent keep a child away from the other parent following a divorce? The short answer is no, a parent can never stop a child from visiting the other parent unless the child is in immediate danger, or the court issues a court order approving this modified custody arrangement to exclude custody or visitation by one parent. You may have questions regarding one parent intentionally keeping a child away from another parent. Learn how these parenting tactics can backfire, and learn how to ensure your legal rights remain protected.
Child Custody and Visitation Orders
Child custody and visitation arrangements are ordered by courts to ensure that both parents have clear legal rights and responsibilities with respect to their children. The parenting plan established between both parents and ordered by the court is not a suggestion, but rather a legally binding order that must be followed by both parents.
- The failure to follow child custody or visitation orders from a court can result in serious legal consequences, including contempt of court, and a decrease in the current child custody and visitation time you have with your child.
In some cases, a parent may have reasonable suspicions regarding the safety or environment of the other parent’s home. In these cases, a parent is not attempting to prevent the other parent from seeing the child, but rather, simply fears for their safety or well-being based on suspicions or evidence about the environment in the other parent’s home.
Why Parental Gate-Keeping Backfires
Simply not liking how the other parent cleans their home, or not approving of the late bedtime allowed is not substantial enough to remove visitation from a parent. Rather, unless a parent suspects the other parent is involved in some sort of alcohol or drug abuse, exhibits behavior rising to the level of abuse due to anger issues, or lacks basic fundamental parenting skills, a parent simply does not have the legal right to keep a child away from the other parent.
Remember, everyone parents differently, and there is no one perfect parently style. If a parent is truly concerned regarding the environment of the other parent, and fears for the safety or comfort of the child, they should seek a new court order that establishes a modified custody arrangement. However, more often than not, differences in parenting styles are not enough for a court to change their original court orders regarding child custody and visitation matters.
- Attempting to manipulate a situation simply because of your own personal preferences for your child can result in additional loss of custody, contempt of court charges, or criminal charges of custodial interference.
Vindictive and Adversarial Parental Gate-Keeping
In other cases, a parent remains angry, adversarial, and vindictive regarding the divorce. These parents use the children as a tool by which to continue to attempt to control and manipulate the other parents. These parents typically have no solid justification regarding why a child should not visit the other parent, they simply prevent the interaction as a coercive and divisive tool. Using the child as leverage, a parent may even make false allegations of abuse or neglect, or attempt to manipulate the child into believing the other parent does not love them. In some cases, grandparents become soldiers in the battle that pits one parent against another, adding another layer of restriction of access to the child.
- In some cases, parents that make the attempt to keep a child away from the other parent backfires, as the court may order sole custody to the other parent as a response to this continuing vindictive and adversarial behavior, along with contempt of court charges or criminal charges of custodial interference.
Understanding the Preferences of a Child
A child may have a preference regarding which parent’s home they enjoy more. However, unless there are instances of child abuse or severe neglect, the child does not have the legal right to simply not visit the other parent. Unfortunately, many parents use their child as a pawn in the strategic game to manipulate their ex-partner, and convince the child of untruths to alienate the child from the other parent. This particular tactic is called parental alienation, and it is an attempt to isolate a child from the other parent.
- Whether the reason comes from a parent or not, a parent does not have the legal right to keep a child away from the other parent if there is a court order that requires visitation.
Additional Examples of Non-Compliance with Court Orders
Along with the examples listed above, there are several additional ways that a parent can attempt to keep a child away from another parent including the following:
- Failure to show up at scheduled meeting places to allow the other parent to begin their custody time as ordered by the court.
- Failure to answer any phone calls, text messages, or emails regarding custody concerns.
- Failure to answer the front door when the other parent comes to recieve the child for their court-ordered custody time.
- Failure to include or involve the other parent in any significant decisions that involve such issues as academics, religion, extra-curricular activities or medical treatments.
Petition to Enforce Parenting Time and Legal Decision-Making
If you believe the other parent of your child is keeping your child away from you, you have the legal right in the state of Arizona to file a Petition to Enforce Parenting Time and Legal Decision-Making
. It is important to note that you may not get an immediate court date or an immediate evidentiary hearing. While this may feel frustrating, just know that in a few weeks you can have the results you want, which is time with your children, by going through the proper legal steps. You can always file a Petition to Enforce Parenting Time and Legal Decision-Making any time the other parent keeps a child away from you, or fails to include you in important decision-making matters. If the court denies your petition for the same issue multiple times, you may not have a solid legal argument to continue to make the petition regarding your child.
- If you feel you have a valid and substantial argument, based in facts and evidence, that shows that the other parent continues to keep your child away from you, filing a Petition to Enforce Parenting Time and Legal Decision-Making can help you receive the child custody and visitation you deserve under the original court order.
Consequences of Non-Compliance with Court Orders
Keeping a child away from the other parent can backfire in serious and permanent ways. If the other parent feels that the situation will not resolve itself, they have the legal right to bring the matter before the court to enforce the existing court order regarding the parenting plan and their visitation rights. In these cases, the parent that fails to comply with court orders may actually receive the following consequences from the court:
- A contempt of court judgment, which may include possible jail time.
- A criminal charge of custodial interference under Arizona Law A.R.S. Section 13-1302, which includes punishments allowed for a class 6 felony.
- A revision of the child custody order and visitation arrangement which reduces or eliminates time with your child.
Specific Circumstances Allowing a Parent to Keep a Child Away From the Other Parent
There are very rare circumstances, in drastic situations, that will allow a parent to keep a child away from the other parent. If one parent has a substantial reason to believe that their child is either physically or sexually abused in the environment of the other parent, they have the legal right to keep a child away from the other parent. However, it is important to note that this is not an indefinite, permanent situation, and if a parent suspects abuse, they must notify child protective services and the police as soon as possible.
- In situations that involve true child endangerment, a parent may seek emergency child custody relief in the Arizona courts to keep custody of their child, through an ex parte custody order.
Contact an Experienced Family Law Attorney
If the other parent of your child continues to keep your child away from you through manipulative or adversarial tactics, you have the legal right to pursue your rights to your child under the law. The original court order will be enforced by the courts unless there is evidence of abuse or severe neglect. If you have additional questions regarding your parental rights as it relates to custody matters, consider taking our free mini-course
that provides additional answers to commonly asked questions regarding parental rights and custody rights. If you have additional questions or concerns, we would welcome the opportunity to discuss how we can help you. Learn how one of our experienced family law attorneys at My Modern Law
in Scottsdale, Mesa, Peoria, or Phoenix, Arizona can provide you with answers to your questions and help you through the divorce process.
Contact us at (480) 470-7731 or online