Justia Lawyer Rating for Jose Noriega
Superlawyer Badges
AV Preeminent Badge
AVVO Rating 10.0 - Top Attorney Criminal Defense
AVVO Rating 10.0 - Top Attorney Personal Injury
AVVO Top Contributor - Criminal Defense
AVVO Clients' Choice - Car Accidents
AVVO Top Contributor - Family
AVVO Clients' Choice - Criminal Defense

How to Enforce a Child Custody Order

Going through a child custody battle can be a difficult and emotionally taxing experience for parents. However, the court system is designed to provide a neutral space where parents can formalize their parenting agreements. A child custody order outlines the rights and responsibilities of parents regarding the care and control of their children. While a custody order can bring clarity to the situation, it is not always followed by both parties. In this article, we will discuss how to enforce a child custody order.

Understanding Child Custody Orders

Before delving into the enforcement of child custody orders, it is important to understand the types of custody orders and the role of the court.

Child custody orders are legal documents that outline the terms and conditions of custody arrangements between parents or guardians. These orders are put in place to ensure that the child's best interests are protected and that both parents are aware of their responsibilities.

Types of Child Custody Orders

There are typically two types of child custody orders: legal custody and physical custody. Legal custody refers to the right to make major decisions on behalf of the child, such as decisions regarding education, healthcare, and religious upbringing. Physical custody, on the other hand, refers to the physical care and control of the child.

Legal custody can be sole or joint. Sole legal custody means that one parent has the right to make all major decisions for the child, while joint legal custody means that both parents share the responsibility of making major decisions for the child.

Physical custody can also be sole or joint. Sole physical custody means that the child lives with one parent for the majority of the time, while the other parent typically has visitation rights. Joint physical custody means that the child spends a significant amount of time with both parents.

The Role of the Court in Child Custody

The court's role in a child custody case is to determine the best interests of the child. Factors considered by the court include the child's age, the parents' ability to care for the child, any history of abuse, and any other factors relevant to the child's well-being. Once the court has determined custody arrangements, it is binding to both parties.

The court may also order mediation or counseling for the parents to help them come to an agreement on custody arrangements. If the parents cannot come to an agreement, the court will make the final decision.

Common Reasons for Custody Order Violations

Unfortunately, not all parents follow the custody order as they should. Common reasons for violations include lack of communication, disagreements, and/or conflict with the other parent, financial strain, and disregard for the best interests of the child.

It is important for both parents to understand the terms of the custody order and to communicate effectively to ensure that the child's needs are being met. If a violation does occur, the parent who is affected by the violation can file a motion for contempt with the court. This motion asks the court to enforce the custody order and may result in consequences for the violating parent, such as fines or even jail time in extreme cases.

Overall, it is important for parents to prioritize the well-being of their child and to follow the terms of the custody order to ensure a healthy and stable upbringing for their child.

Steps to Enforce a Child Custody Order

If one parent is not following the custody order, the other parent can take certain steps to enforce it. This is important to ensure that the child's best interests are being served and that both parents are fulfilling their responsibilities.

Documenting the Violation

The first step in enforcing a child custody order is documenting the violations. It is important to keep a record of all instances in which the other parent failed to comply with the custody order. This can include missed visitations, failure to return the child on time, or any other violation of the order. Keeping a detailed record of these violations can help in court proceedings if necessary. It is important to include dates, times, and any other relevant details in the documentation. If the violations continue, the documentation can be used as evidence in court.

It is also important to keep any communication with the other parent regarding the violation. This can include emails, text messages, or any other form of communication. This can be used as evidence in court to show that the other parent was aware of the violation and failed to comply with the order.

Communicating With the Other Parent

Before taking legal action, it is recommended that you attempt to resolve the issue directly with the other parent. Communicate clearly, calmly, and firmly regarding the violation and your expectation with regards to future compliance. It is important to avoid any confrontational or aggressive behavior, as this can escalate the situation and make it more difficult to resolve. Instead, focus on finding a solution that is in the best interests of the child.

If the other parent is unresponsive or unwilling to comply, it may be necessary to involve a third party, such as a mediator or a lawyer, to facilitate communication and resolve the issue.

Seeking Legal Advice

If talking to the other parent does not produce the desired result, seeking legal advice is the next step. A lawyer can assess the strength of your case and help you decide on the best course of action. They can also provide guidance on the legal process and what to expect in court.

It is important to choose a lawyer who specializes in family law and has experience in child custody cases. They should be able to provide references and a clear understanding of their fees and billing practices.

Filing a Motion for Enforcement

If the other parent still refuses to comply with the custody order, filing a motion for enforcement is necessary. This legal action will bring the violation to the attention of the court, which can then order the other parent to comply with the custody order. This can include fines, changes to the custody order, or even jail time, depending on the severity of the violation.

It is important to note that filing a motion for enforcement should be a last resort, as it can be a lengthy and expensive legal process. However, if the other parent is consistently violating the custody order and putting the child's well-being at risk, it may be necessary to take this step to ensure that the child's best interests are being served.

Legal Remedies for Child Custody Order Violations

If one parent violates the custody order, there are legal remedies available to the other parent. It is important to take immediate action to protect the child and enforce the court-ordered custody arrangement.

Contempt of Court

If a parent violates a custody order, they can be held in contempt of court. This means that they are disobeying a court order and could face fines and/or jail time. Contempt of court is a serious offense and can result in significant consequences for the offending parent.

It is important to note that a parent cannot be held in contempt of court if they are unable to comply with the custody order due to circumstances beyond their control. For example, if a parent is hospitalized and unable to pick up the child for their scheduled visitation, they would not be held in contempt of court.

Modification of the Custody Order

If the violation is ongoing and serious, it may be necessary to modify the custody order. A modification of the custody order can result in a change in legal or physical custody, visitation, or other relevant factors. The court will consider the best interests of the child when making a decision about modifying the custody order.

It is important to provide evidence of the ongoing violation and the harm it is causing to the child in order to successfully obtain a modification of the custody order. This can include documentation of missed visitation, witness statements, and other relevant information.

Involving Law Enforcement

In extreme cases, involving law enforcement may be necessary. If a parent takes the child without permission, it can be considered a kidnapping, and legal and criminal charges may be brought against the offending parent. It is important to contact law enforcement immediately if a parent takes the child without permission.

It is also important to note that involving law enforcement should be a last resort and should only be done in situations where the child's safety is at risk. Involving law enforcement can be traumatic for the child and should be avoided if possible.

Seeking Supervised Visitation or Restricted Access

If one parent repeatedly violates the custody order, the court may limit their access to the child. Supervised visitation or restricted access can provide a measure of protection for both the child and the other parent. This can be especially important in situations where the offending parent has a history of domestic violence or substance abuse.

Supervised visitation means that the offending parent can only see the child in the presence of a neutral third party, such as a social worker or family member. Restricted access means that the offending parent's visitation is limited to certain times and places, and may be supervised as well.

It is important to note that supervised visitation or restricted access should only be used when necessary to protect the child. The court will consider the best interests of the child when making a decision about supervised visitation or restricted access.

Preventing Future Custody Order Violations

Once a custody order has been enforced, it is important to take steps to prevent future violations.

Establishing Clear Communication

Clear and open communication with the other parent is essential in preventing future custody order violations. Establishing a regular means of communication, such as email or text messaging, can help both parties stay informed and avoid misunderstandings.

Creating a Detailed Parenting Plan

A parenting plan can provide a framework for both parents to follow and can include details such as drop-off and pick-up times, scheduled visitation, and shared responsibilities.

Attending Co-Parenting Classes

Co-parenting classes can offer valuable tools and strategies for effective communication and conflict resolution. Many courts require co-parenting classes for both parents in custody cases.

Utilizing Mediation or Counseling Services

If communication struggles continue, mediation or counseling services can offer a neutral space for parents to address and resolve conflicts.


Enforcing a child custody order can be daunting, but it is essential for the well-being of the child. By understanding the types of child custody orders, documenting violations, communicating effectively, and seeking legal advice when necessary, parents can ensure that their child's best interests are upheld. Additionally, committing to preventative measures, such as creating a detailed parenting plan and attending co-parenting classes, can help to avoid future custody order violations.

Client Reviews
Guest and Gray law firm is wonderful. I have had the chance to work with three of the lawyers and they all have been wonderful. They will tell you when you need a lawyer and when you don't. They actually try to save you money. They respond very fast to questions and try to help you understand what is going on. They are caring and are really judgment free. If I needed a lawyer again I would use this firm in a second and recommend them. K.K.
I used Guest and Gray to deal with my ex wife's accusations of child neglect.I dealt with Robert Guest and Tracy Gray. Both were excellent attorneys and surpassed every expectation I had in fighting the false accusations. We Won ! M.B.
I used Guest & Gray for a child custody case and they were great. I was really nervous about the case but they took care of everything and answered all my questions. I would recommend their services to anyone. J.R.
I can highly recommend Guest and Gray. I have worked on a number of cases with Robert Guest and and Scott Gray and find it amazing how MOTIVATED they are to do everything they can for their clients, not to mention that there superior knowledge, etc. In criminal cases supportive relatives always want to know "what can I do" to help. Hire Guest and Gray. C.S.