What Can I Do If My Ex Will Not Abide by Our Custody Agreement?

Unfortunately, custody disputes are not limited to the time period during which a divorce takes place. In fact, disputes over custody and parenting time are common long after a divorce is finalized. If you find yourself dealing with a former spouse who will not abide by the terms of your custody agreement it can be extremely frustrating and emotionally exhausting. A Murfreesboro custody lawyer at Bennett, Michael & Hornsby explains what you can do if your ex refuses to adhere to the terms of your custody agreement.

The Problem – Post-Divorce Custody Disputes

It happens all too often. Sometimes it is subtle while other times it is blatant. Parents get divorced and at some point, after that divorce is final, one parent starts veering away from the custody agreement. One week the parent returns the children an hour late or had something come up and could not have them ready at the scheduled time. That hour becomes two and eventually, a full-blown dispute arises over the entire custody agreement. Then there is the former spouse who flat out refuses to adhere to the parenting schedule from the beginning. Regardless of how you arrived at where you are, if you are dealing with a former spouse who refuses to abide by the terms of your custody agreement it can be infuriating

Understanding Your Parenting Plan. 

Most of us continue to use the terms “custody” and “visitation,” despite the fact that the law no longer uses them. Instead, the parent who has the child most of the time is referred to as the “primary residential parent” while the other parent is the “alternative residential parent.” Instead of using the term “visitation,” time a child spends with a parent is referred to as “parenting time” while the “ultimate decision-maker” refers to the parent who has the legal authority to make important decisions relating to the child if the parents are unable to agree. All these designations include the Parenting Plan you are required to submit to the court during the course of your divorce proceedings. A Parenting Plan also includes the parenting time schedule that determines when the child will be with each parent. Whether the parties create their own Parenting Plan, or the court decides the terms for the parties, once the court has accepted the Parenting Plan it becomes part of the final judgment of divorce.

Violating an Order of the Court

The final decree or judgment in a divorce is considered a final order of the court just as in any other type of civil lawsuit. The terms contained in the final decree, including those found in the Parenting Plan are orders of the court. That means that the parenting time schedule and all other issues related to custody and visitation are also orders of the court.  If either party fails or refuses to abide by those terms, or otherwise violates a term, it can subject that party to contempt of court and all remedies available to the court for that contempt.  If your former spouse is violating the terms of your custody agreement you should consult with an experienced custody lawyer to initiate proceedings that will address the matter in court.

What Happens If a Party If Found to Be in Contempt of Court?

Contempt of court means that an individual has disrespected the authority of the court. In the case of a divorce involving minor children, it often means that one party refuses to adhere to the terms of the Parenting Plan.  When a parent is found in contempt, the judge has a considerable amount of authority and options available to address that contempt. If the contempt appears to be minor, the judge may simply admonish the party to abide by the terms of the court orders going forward; however, if the contempt is blatant and/or ongoing, a judge could modify the terms of the Parenting Plan in favor of the party not in contempt or could even decide to sentence the party in contempt to jail to underscore the seriousness of the situation. 

Contact a Murfreesboro Custody Lawyer

If you have additional questions about a custody dispute in Tennessee, it is important that you consult with an experienced Murfreesboro custody lawyer. Contact the team at Bennett, Michael & Hornsby as soon as possible by calling 615-898-1560 to schedule your free appointment.

Stan Bennett
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