How can a parent resolve a violation of their custody order?

Shared custody is a common outcome during Washington divorce proceedings or breakups. The family courts have the authority to divide parental responsibilities between the adults in a family, and parents also have the option of working together to reach a settlement.

Once there is an official custody order on record, people tend to assume that the other parent will follow that order. Unfortunately, custody violations are very common. They can range from small and frustrating violations, like consistently showing up 15 minutes late to exchanges, to very serious violations, like canceling the other parent’s time with the children with minimal warning.

How can a parent struggling to deal with a significant violation or ongoing deviations from the custody order protect their time with their children in Washington state?

Compiling documentation

Asking the courts to intervene likely won’t yield many results if all the courts have to review are the claims of the individual parents. It will effectively be one parent’s word against the others. The more documentation someone has of the custody order violations, the easier it will be to convince the courts that enforcement is necessary.

Many people keep a handwritten journal detailing canceled visits and other issues. For a parent denied custody or visitation access despite an order allowing them time with the children, consistently showing up for those visits or parenting sessions despite the refusal of the other parent to comply with the order will be important, as the other parent might otherwise blame the adult denied custody for failing to show up.

Going back to court

Sometimes, putting together records of how unreliable the other parent has been or how many times they have denied someone access to their children will help them negotiate with the other parent. However, if someone has committed to interfering in their co-parent’s relationship with the children, the situation may require court intervention.

For the children, a disruption in their relationship with one of their parents is likely not in their best interests. A Washington family law judge would be able to order makeup parenting time in some situations. They may also have the option of modifying a custody order or holding a non-compliant parent in contempt of court.

Choosing to take action to protect one’s relationship with their children may require months of patience but can result in an improved dynamic between the parent and their children later. Seeking legal guidance is always an option.