To be enforceable, visitation and child custody orders must clearly specify when a child is to be with each parent and address how time will be divided for holidays, birthdays, and vacations. The visitation and child custody orders should also specify how the parents will handle the transportation of their child between home and extracurricular activities.

In California, parents often have problems adhering to verbal agreements that have not been formalized into child custody orders. For example, some parents may refuse to honor a verbal agreement about custody and visitation of the children if the other parent fails to pay child support. A parent may also refuse to honor a verbal agreement about custody and visitation if the other parent becomes involved with a new significant other. Problems between parents often impact the well-being of their child.

Why Child Custody Orders are Important

If child custody orders are not in place, either parent can take the child as she or he pleases. If the police are called, they will likely not take the child from one parent and give him or her to the other. Furthermore, without existing child custody orders, the police will not consider arresting a parent for child abduction for their failure to return the child to the other parent.

“APC helped me get emergency custody orders when my ex-boyfriend decided not to return our daughter. So glad I had their help during this stressful situation!” P. Johnson.
“Fighting over kids is not only stressful as a parent, but is traumatizing to the kids! My emergency motion got me an order that the police were able to enforce.” P. Johnson

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Basically, if a parent does not have a child custody order in place, and the other parent takes the child without permission, the parent will have limited legal options to enforce his/her custody rights. This is why it is important to have child custody orders when the biological parents of a child have separated.

The police can only enforce clear and defined child custody orders which designate which parent has the legal right to have the child on a specific date or at a specified time. If there are no visitation or child custody orders, or the orders are unclear, the hands of the police are tied.

If you find yourself in the type of situation mentioned above, you can file an ex-parte motion for emergency visitation and child custody orders. The court will usually grant some form of temporary visitation and child custody orders, pending a full hearing on the issues. These orders can cover a variety of concerns that pertain to your child until a permanent order can be granted.

When Child Custody Orders are Violated

If permanent visitation or child custody orders are later violated, you can contact your local police department and ask them to enforce the orders. You can also file an action for “contempt” in court. You can ask the court to enforce the orders and make a finding that the other parent willfully disobeyed the court orders.

Keep a journal documenting all custody violations. If you go back to court, you can explain to the the judge about the other parent’s actions. Make sure you keep a copy of your visitation and custody orders in a safe place.

International Child Abduction

If a parent abducts his/her child and leaves the U.S., the State Department Office of Children’s Issues will work with U.S. embassies and consulates worldwide to help find the child. In addition, under the Hague Convention, member states require that a child who is a resident in one country of the convention, and is moved to another country under the convention in violation of existing child custody orders, be returned to the child’s primary country of residence.

International child abduction cases are very complicated. Because child custody disputes are private legal matters between the parents, there is very little the State Department can do in locating abducted children. More so, U.S. custody orders are usually not recognized by countries that are not members of the Hague convention.

Contact A People’s Choice for more information about the importance of child custody orders. We can help you draft and file a petition for visitation and child custody. Do not wait until it is too late to get your child custody orders. Doing so could potentially jeopardize the safety of your child.

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