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The Legal Consequences of Interfering with Custody Rights

Determining the custodial rights of divorcing or separated parents is one of the most difficult and emotionally charged issues a father can go through. Parents have a right to maintain a close and healthy relationship with their children. When a child’s parents have separated, those competing rights might appear to be at odds.

In these situations, parents often make bad decisions in the heat of the battle. A parent might become overtly defiant about the results of a custody determination by keeping the child longer than what was authorized per the custody arrangement, or by denying parenting time altogether. Violations of custody and parenting time orders can and should have significant legal ramifications.

Civil Contempt and Criminal Consequences of Custody Interference

When parents are embroiled in an intense custody battle, they might resort to desperate measures to be with their child. Yet the denial of court-ordered visitation can lead to serious civil and criminal penalties. In family court, a judge can punish a party who has violated an order by awarding makeup parenting time, sanctioning the offending parent by making her pay attorney fees or other financial sanctions, holding a party in contempt of court, incarceration and ultimately awarding a change of custody in favor of the other parent. It is significant that one of the Best Interests of the Minor Child factors of the Michigan Child Custody Act is the willingness to facilitate a relationship between the other parent and the child. A party who instead interferes with the relationship between their ex- and the child runs the risk of losing custody or parenting time herself.

The child may not object to staying longer with the parent or even claim that he or she doesn’t want to go back to the other parent. However, the purpose of the law is to enforce court-ordered parenting time and it is the parent’s obligation to ensure that the order is followed.

Even a parent who has difficulties with time management can find themselves facing civil contempt for their conduct. For example, a parent who demonstrates a pattern of being late for custody exchanges, or is consistently defiant of the other parent’s custody rights may risk civil contempt in Michigan.

The most egregious cases of custody and parenting time violations can even lead to criminal charges. Under Michigan Penal Code § 750.350a, parental kidnapping is classified as a felony punishable by up to one year in prison, and a criminal fine costing the defendant up to $2,000. Under that section, “[a]n adoptive or natural parent of a child shall not take that child, or retain that child or more than 24 hours, with the intent to detain or conceal the child from any other parent or legal guardian of the child who has custody or parenting time rights under a lawful court order at the time of the taking or retention, or from the person or persons who have adopted the child, or from any other person having lawful charge of the child at the time of the taking or retention.”

Although you may feel passionate about your relationship with your child, demonstrating blatant disregard for the other parent’s custodial rights won’t benefit you or your child. If you think your custody arrangement is not fair, you should consult an experienced attorney about your legal rights and options before pursuing a particular course of action. Conversely, if your child’s mother has denied you parenting time or otherwise disregarded a court order it is important to seek enforcement with the court each and every time. Parents need to be taken to task for denial of parenting time just as vigilantly as the Friend of the Court seeks enforcement of child support obligations. Action should be taken after even the first violation of an order in order to send a message that the child has a right to a relationship with both parents and that interference with that right will be punished.

Get Professional Legal Counsel at the American Divorce Association for Men (ADAM)

If you are involved in a heated legal dispute over the custody rights of a child, you can benefit from the professional counsel of a licensed attorney at the American Divorce Association for Men. We proudly advocate for the rights of fathers when it comes to child custody cases and other family law disputes. You can count on our legal team to preserve and promote you and your family’s legal rights and interests.

Contact ADAM online at (248) 327-0050 or contact us online to schedule a case evaluation today.

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