When Child Custody Orders Need To Be Enforced
If you and the other parent of your child or children are no longer a couple, you probably have an agreement regarding child custody. A custody agreement spells out where the child lives most of the time, how often they visit the parent they do not live with, and who can make medical, educational and other decisions.
Strict adherence to a custody agreement is necessary for both households to operate efficiently and for the children to have a sense of stability. Our compassionate child custody attorneys at Angela Faye Brown & Associates understand that if your ex is violating a custody order, it is not just an inconvenience for you; it is also a disruption to your children’s lives that could have a lasting impact.
You can take action to force the other parent to adhere to your agreement. A knowledgeable child custody enforcement lawyer in Houston or Austin can explain your legal options and help you decide the course of action that most benefits your children.
Conservatorship Orders Define Parents’ Responsibilities
“Conservatorship” is the term that Texas courts give to child custody. It establishes decision-making, visitation and parental conduct. Our well-versed Houston attorneys can bring a contempt motion to enforce the conservatorship if necessary.
A conservatorship arrangement sets forth the child’s primary residence and notes which parent has decision-making authority for various issues. Sometimes, one parent has primary decision-making authority on all issues. In other cases, one parent might be responsible for education and religious instruction, for example, and the other parent has primary authority on health care issues.
A conservatorship agreement establishes a visitation schedule. The courts presume it is in the child’s best interests to have regular contact with the parent the child does not live with. The standard agreement is that the child spends every other weekend, one weeknight each week and specified holidays with the noncustodial parent. However, parents can decide on a different schedule, and courts will generally approve it.
The conservatorship agreement also can define how the parents must conduct themselves when in the presence of the children. For example, it might state that a parent may not have adult guests stay overnight, use alcohol or drugs, or engage in other specified activities when the children are with them. A conservatorship order also can bar a parent from disparaging the other parent.
Building A Houston Conservatorship Contempt Case
When a parent seeks a contempt order against the other parent for failing to adhere to a custody agreement, the parent seeking the order (petitioner) must offer proof of the other parent’s (respondent) failure. Unless the situation is a clear emergency, courts do not grant contempt motions absent proof of a pattern of noncompliance.
It is critical for parents to keep meticulous notes about how visitation is going, even if things are generally proceeding as agreed. Minor noncompliance could escalate into a major issue, so parents are well-advised to be strict about adhering to visitation schedules and restrictions on behavior and note when the other parent fails to do so. Texas Family Code §157.001(c) requires a petition containing details of the alleged violations to enforce an agreement. Parents should document times when the other parent:
- Canceled or postponed a visit for nonemergency reasons
- Was late picking up or producing the child
- Claimed the child demanded to return home before the visit was scheduled to end
- Made statements or threats tying visitation to child support payments
- Involved a third party in visitation without the permission of the other parent
- Took the child out of the area without prior notice and permission
- Violated a conservatorship order in any other way
If any other parties witnessed an act of noncompliance, parents should include that information in their documentation. An experienced family attorney can use the parent’s notes to draft a petition asking the court to hold the other parent in contempt of the conservatorship order and enforce the custody agreement.
Consult With A Dedicated Attorney Regarding Child Custody Enforcement
It can be hard on a child when their parents live separately. Adhering to a regular visitation schedule can help a child manage their expectations and cope more easily with the changes in their lives.
If your ex is not complying with an agreed visitation schedule or other aspects of a conservatorship order, it is your child who suffers the most. Taking legal action can protect the child’s well-being. Talk to one of our Houston child custody enforcement lawyers today. Call our office at 713-714-3710.