The court granted you visitation rights with your children for a reason. The court found it to be in your child’s best interest to spend time with both of their parents. If your ex is repeatedly violating your right to see your children, you need to stand up for your and your children’s interests. In this article, we will outline the steps for enforcing your visitation rights.
What Are Visitation Rights?
In North Carolina, visitation rights are a secondary form of custody in which a court orders a parent’s right to visit with their child. The court order will include a visitation schedule with times at which the parent may visit with the child. Often, this will be one night a week and every other weekend, but each visitation schedule is tailored to the child’s best interest. The visitation schedule may also address:
- Visitation during holidays, special occasions, school breaks, and vacation
- Transportation between the parents’ homes
- Methods of communication between parents for routine and urgent matters
The visitation schedule is a court order, and failure to comply with the court order could have serious legal consequences for your ex.
Keep Records of Missed Visitation
If your ex violates your visitation rights, whatever the reason, begin keeping a record of every missed visitation, including the date, time, and all communications with your ex about the missed visitation. Even if your ex’s reason seems legitimate and innocent, it is a good idea to start building a record in case it becomes habitual.
Remember that these records could become evidence in court. Therefore, keep your words and tone amicable and civil. It does not help your case to use profanity or derogatory language in your communication with your ex. Before you make a phone call or send a text message, ask yourself what the judge would think if they heard or read what you’re about to say.
Try to Resolve the Situation Outside Court
Not all visitation violations require a response from a court of law. Before you escalate the matter to the court, try to resolve the issue of missed visitation directly with your spouse. If the missed visitation only occurs a few times, ask your ex to make up the missed time with additional visitation days. Even if you feel disrespected by your ex’s disregard of your visitation rights, it will be in your child’s best interest if you two can resolve this dispute amicably and outside of court.
If your ex continues to violate your visitation rights, your divorce attorney can send them a strongly worded letter that reminds them of their obligation to follow the court-ordered visitation schedule and the potential legal consequences of their repeated violations. Your attorney can reiterate your willingness to resolve the dispute outside of court and ask for their cooperation with making up any missed visitation time.
Sometimes, this letter is enough to remind your ex of the importance of the court-ordered visitation rights. If it does not have the desired effect, the letter also shows your good faith effort to resolve your dispute amicably before going to court.
Take Your Ex to Court
If your ex continues to violate your visitation rights and refuses to cooperate in finding a resolution, you may need to take your ex to court.
With the assistance of your divorce attorney, you can file one of two motions:
- Motion for contempt: After your attorney files this motion, a hearing date will be set, and you will have to prove that your ex violated your visitation rights and, therefore, should be held in contempt of court.
- Motion for order to show cause: After your attorney files this motion, a judge will decide whether to grant the motion, often without a hearing, and issue an order to show cause, in which your ex will need to appear in court to explain why they should not be held in contempt of court.
Consequences for Violating Visitation Rights
If the court finds that your ex willfully violated your visitation rights and holds them in contempt of court, the judge could decide to issue the following consequences for that violation:
- Your ex may have to pay a fine, court costs, and/or your attorney’s fees.
- You may be granted additional visitation time with your child.
- The court may order counseling for either or both parents and the child.
- The court may modify your child custody arrangement.
- The court could order jail time for your ex.
Contact Marshall & Taylor PLLC for Help Enforcing Your Visitation Rights
If your ex is violating your visitation rights, contact the experienced Raleigh family law attorneys of Marshall & Taylor PLLC about enforcing your rights. We are ready to help. Call our office today at (919) 833-1040.