It is an all too frequent complaint. Mom or dad has for whatever reason, decided they’re not going to return the kids on the day and time agreed upon. This can mean a parent consistently interrupting and inconveniencing both yours and the children’s established schedules, or, at the other end of the spectrum, one parent arbitrarily decides they’re not going to allow the other parent any contact with the kids whatsoever. The justifications parents give for withholding the children from the other parent are too numerous to mention here, but barring instances of abuse and neglect, these justifications are rarely warranted.
The old saying that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure is especially true here. It often happens that people who separate, but don’t begin the divorce process, or people who were never married but have children together work out a visitation schedule on their own without the help of a lawyer or the courts. Most people make such arrangements because they believe they don’t have the money to spend on lawyers. It is also understandable that they want to avoid all the stress and headaches that can come with going to court, so they try to put together a plan they can live with.
Typically, such a plan works out just fine—until it doesn’t. And when the plan fails, if you are the parent who is now having their children withheld from them, you are in a nearly powerless position because without a court order, there isn’t much the police can do to help. At this point, you can either allow your children to remain with your ex and do nothing, or you can get legal help.
There are different remedies available to you depending on the circumstances. However, it’s not certain how much time it’s going to take, and it may very well end up costing you more money than if you'd had an attorney handle your matter in the first place.
As I like to point out to my clients, your peace of mind has value, and in a situation where the potential exists for your children to be kept from you, that peace of mind is priceless. Therefore, I urge you to get a court ordered custody and visitation agreement. With a court order, the police can act to get your children back to you as quickly as possible.
Please take note: if you are the parent withholding a child from the other parent against a court order, you could be held in contempt of court and find yourself limited to supervised visitation with the kids. You could even be denied visitation altogether. You can avoid all this by abiding by the agreement. If you feel your visitation arrangement is unfair, speak to an attorney about getting the agreement modified. If there is no court-ordered agreement, but you have established a consistent visitation schedule, this is what is known as a de facto custody schedule. For example, if for the past 6 months you have had the children every other weekend, then that is your de facto schedule and suddenly deviating from it could make you look very bad should you eventually wind up in court.
As you can see, it is best for everyone to get a court order before any of this happens. However, life, especially when it comes to children, is not always so easy and convenient. We often make decisions based on what seems necessary at the time. If your children are being withheld from you and you do not have a court order, there are still actions that can be taken to get your kids back to you as soon as possible. Call me today and let’s discuss your options for both your legal matter and how you can afford it.
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