Divorcing and divorced parents in the State of Michigan who are involved in a child custody, child support, or visitation dispute will need sound legal guidance and effective representation from a metro Detroit family law attorney.

When parents get divorced, one result is a court-ordered arrangement for custody, child support, and parenting time. If the parents trust one another and can agree upon these matters, the court will typically approve or “sign off” on that agreement.

When it comes to child support, the parents may be stuck with the amount of child support based on the Michigan Child Support Guidelines.

But when divorcing parents cannot agree on these matters, an arrangement will be imposed by the court, which will consider a number of custody and parenting options. Details of the arrangement are part of the final divorce judgment and are legally binding on the parents.

What Does a Child Custody Order Include?

A child custody order specifies each parent’s rights and responsibilities. It should include the specifics of the court’s custody decision and a detailed visitation schedule.

However, some parents do not adhere to the terms and conditions of court-ordered parenting plans and custody arrangements. What if your ex will not stick to your parenting plan? What steps can you take? Can your ex be penalized for violating the terms of the court order?

If you’ll continue reading, you will learn what steps you should take and how you should deal with an ex-spouse who violates the terms of your court-ordered parenting plan. You will also learn more about your custody and visitation rights after a divorce in the State of Michigan.

Is the Violation of a Custody Order a Crime?

You may not realize it, but interference with a child custody order can be prosecuted as a crime in Michigan. What constitutes the illegal violation of a child custody order?

Under Michigan law, a non-custodial parent cannot take or keep a child away from a custodial parent in violation of a court order for more than twenty-four hours.

To face criminal penalties, a non-custodial parent must have a conscious intent to conceal the child and to keep the child from the custodial parent. There also must be a lawful court order in place regarding custody or parenting time.

How Can A Custodial Parent Protect a Child?

If your non-custodial ex-spouse has your child for more than twenty-four hours beyond the time the child was to be returned, if you cannot reach your ex, and if you believe that your ex does not intend to return the child, contact the police.

If a non-custodial parent kidnaps a child and does not intend to return that child to the custodial parent, the non-custodial parent may be charged with a felony that is punishable upon conviction with a year and a day in prison and/or a $2,000 fine. This is known as parental kidnapping.

However, if you believe that your ex may take your child illegally, your lawyer can ask the court to include in its visitation order such measures as supervised visitation, posting a bond, and entering the child’s name in the State Department’s Children’s Passport Issuance Alert Program.

You should make sure that your child’s school or daycare provider is aware of the custody order and your concerns. You should also have your child or children memorize information such as your home address and telephone number.

Don’t Act Against the Other Parent on Your Own

However, kidnapping or keeping a child is not the only way to interfere illegally with a parenting plan. If your child’s other parent consistently drops your child off late or consistently shows up late for visitations, such conduct may also constitute interference with the parenting plan.

If your ex does not adhere to the parenting plan, you can’t withhold visitation or take any other action on your own that would also violate the plan. Ask a Michigan family law attorney to help. Do not try to take matters into your own hands to address interference with custodial rights.

Before you withhold visitations or take any other action on your own, consider these factors:

1. Time with each parent is a child’s right. If a parent will not stick to the parenting plan, the child shouldn’t be penalized. Research consistently tells us that most children are happier and healthier when they are allowed to have relationships with both of their parents.

2. When your child’s other parent refuses to adhere to the parenting plan, it is the court’s responsibility – not yours – to determine and enforce penalties for any failure by that parent to abide by the plan.

How Will a Court Enforce a Custody Order?

Everyone runs a little late sometimes, but consistent and intentional disruptions of your parenting plan must be dealt with by the courts. A metro Detroit family lawyer can file a motion on your behalf asking the court to enforce its order. In response to your motion, the court may:

1. require “makeup” parenting time
2. modify the existing parenting plan and custody arrangement
3. hold the child’s other parent in contempt of court, with the possibility of jail

Asking the court to enforce its order should be considered a last resort. If your ex has simply been late once or twice, a judge will probably be lenient. You should have a well-documented pattern of parenting plan violations before you ask the court to enforce its order.

Can a Parenting Plan be Modified?

When a parenting plan and custody arrangement are part of a final divorce decree, a court won’t modify or alter that arrangement for anything less than a substantive reason. A modification will be approved only if a major life change has happened, including but not limited to:

1. A parent is unemployed or has a substantial increase or reduction of income.
2. A parent plans to take the child or children and relocate.
3. A parent is sent to prison or jail for a criminal conviction.
4. The child’s or children’s needs have changed.
5. A parent remarries or becomes the parent of a new child with a different partner.

Compile the Documentation You Will Need as Evidence

If your spouse consistently violates the custody agreement and parenting plan, don’t let the court presume that your complaints are a trivial “he said, she said” dispute. Have documentation for everything.

Use a blank calendar to record when your ex does not abide by the parenting plan. Keep track of when the other parent is late or any time the other parent misinforms or deceives you about time with your child or children.

Posts on social media sites like Facebook and Instagram always have time stamps that could prove the other parent was not adhering to the parenting plan. If you take the matter to court, your attorney will need this type of documentation.

Nothing is more important than your child or children. If your ex-spouse is not in compliance with the custody and visitation arrangements set forth by the court, speak first with a metro Detroit family law attorney who can advise you regarding what steps you should take.