Child custody and visitation orders in Georgia are aimed at the child’s best interests. Once the court has given an order, all parties involved must abide by it. Unfortunately, many parents fail to uphold certain provisions of their child custody or visitation order, causing unpleasant situations for the other parent. When this happens, the violating parent may face consequences that range from “make-up visitation” to jail time.
Examples of Visitation Violations in Georgia
Sometimes, a parent breaches the visitation order to deliberately interfere with the other party’s parenting time. In other cases, a simple mistake on the part of one parent could be considered a visitation violation. Here are some examples of how custody orders are violated in Georgia:
- Denying the other parent’s visitation. A parent can do this by claiming that the child doesn’t want to visit, or by outright refusing to hand off the child to the other parent. In many cases, the parent who denies visitation does so because the other parent has missed paying child support or spousal support. However, these are separate issues, and a parent cannot deny parenting time based solely on those grounds.
- Blocking the other parent’s communication. Family court orders normally allow non-custodial parents to communicate with their child outside their parenting time. However, some custodial parents hinder this communication by cutting off phone calls, blocking texts, and disallowing online messaging.
- Consistently missing or being late to exchanges. The court-ordered parenting plan provides schedules for when the child is to be handed off or exchanged between parents. Being late to a visitation hand-off may be understandable if it happens once or twice. But if one parent is always late or often fails to show up to the parent exchange, this reduces the amount of parenting time the other parent gets.
- Taking the child on unauthorized trips. The child custody order may also outline whether the child can travel out of state with either parent, whether the other parent has to be notified, and whether the traveling parent has to get the court’s permission. If one parent travels with the child without following such stipulations, it can constitute an order violation.
What Do I Do If My Ex Violates the Child Visitation Order?
There are several strategies to take if the other parent interferes with your parenting time:
- Reminding them of the court order. If you and your ex can speak amicably, you may remind them of the specific parenting plan provisions that they breached. You can bring a copy of the court order when you pick up your child.
- Getting the help of law enforcement. The police can enforce a child custody or visitation order. If you have reason to be anxious about your child’s situation with the other parent, you may ask the police for assistance in picking up your child.
- Filing for contempt. An intentional violation of a court order may be considered “contempt of court,” which is an offense that the court may punish. You can file a motion asking the court to hold the violating parent in contempt. If the court agrees with your motion, the violator will face penalties, which we discuss below.
- Contact a child custody lawyer. It’s wise to at least consult with a family law attorney to determine your best legal strategy for dealing with parental interference.
Consequences of a Visitation Violation in Georgia
When a parent fails to obey a child custody or visitation order, the court can hold them in contempt and apply remedies such as:
- Ordering additional parenting time for the other parent to make up for their missed visitation
- Ordering the offending parent to pay any costs arising from their visitation interference, including legal fees
- Ordering the offending parent to attend parenting classes
- Changing the child’s pick-up time, location, or transportation arrangements
- Imposing a fine on the offending parent
- Sending the offending parent to jail (if the visitation interference was serious or has been going on for a long time).
Besides these civil penalties, certain cases of child custody interference could be deemed a crime under Georgia law. An example is if a parent takes the child out of state without the necessary authorization of the court or without obeying the applicable rules in the parenting time order. This violation can rise to a felony and is punishable with fines and prison time.
Contact a Georgia Child Custody and Visitation Lawyer
If you’re concerned that your parenting time is being hindered, or if you are facing a potential contempt of court offense in Georgia, don’t hesitate to contact Attorney Sharon Jackson. With over 20 years of experience in Family Law, Ms. Jackson has secured the parental rights of numerous Georgia parents. Talk to Ms. Jackson about your child visitation situation. Call (678) 909-4100 today.