A parent’s job is the most important and difficult responsibility a person can fulfill. It is also one of the most rewarding things a person can do. When parents divorce and child custody must be shared, though, this role becomes infinitely more complex. Instead of having unfettered access to one’s child, parenting time is parsed out over a schedule that must be coordinated and shared with the other parent. Finding a fair division of time with the child is challenging for even the most cooperative of parents, and those that are prone to disagreement and conflict will have an even harder time compromising. While most parents find a way to make shared custody work, issues with violations of the custody arrangement do occur, particularly if one parent believes he/she is not allocated enough time with the child. In situations where resentment builds, the parent unhappy with the arrangement may take it upon him/herself to ignore the custody agreement and not return the child at the appointed time. The other parent may wonder what rights they have to enforce the standing agreement, and what penalties a court may impose to deter future violations. Realizing the other parent is not planning to return one’s child is a terrifying situation, and understanding how to address this action head-on is critical to reestablishing the status quo. A discussion of how to enforce a custody agreement or parenting plan will follow below.
Primary Physical Custody vs. Visitation in Georgia
Most parents share child custody in Georgia, meaning the child spends time with both parents. Georgia does actively promote the participation of both parents in a child’s life, and, in fact, some courts are willing to allow joint custody, which divides parenting responsibilities 50/50. However, there is typically a distinct split in childcare, with one parent holding primary physical custody and the other receiving visitation rights. The parent with primary physical custody has the child the majority of the time, and the parent with visitation commonly has the child on weekends and perhaps one evening during the week.
Rights of Both Parents in Georgia
Assuming parenting time is shared, each parent has a right to see the child during his/her allotted time, and the other parent is not permitted to interfere. Even if a parent has a legitimate concern that seeing the other parent is not in child’s best interests, refusing to send the child could result in serious legal repercussions, including the loss of custody rights. If the safety or welfare of the child is a concern, it is better to file an emergency motion with the family court to address the current custody arrangement, rather than deciding unilaterally to deny the child and other parents their time together.
Contempt of Court in Georgia
Either parent may seek to enforce a valid parenting plan if a violation of the terms occurs. The typical mechanism used to comply compliance is to file a motion for contempt of court, which is essentially notifying the court that one of its orders is not being followed. To prove contempt, the parent asking the court to intervene must show the other parent intentionally failed to follow the parenting plan, and if shown, the court has broad discretion to secure the best interests of the child, which can include ordering the sheriff’s office to retrieve the child and/or jailing the offending parent for the violations. In addition, the court could modify the parenting plan to restrict or eliminate visitation if the child would be harmed by continued contact.
Get Help from a Carrollton Family Law Attorney
Your parental rights should never be taken lightly or violated. If you share custody of your child, and your ex-spouse or partner is not abiding by the parenting plan, talk to a Carrollton, Ga family law attorney as soon as possible. Moffitt Law, LLC will use all available legal options to enforce your rights, and are available to schedule a consultation. Call the Carrollton family law firm at (762) 212 -3846 for a free consultation.
Tyler Moffitt is a Family Law and Criminal Defense Attorney who practices Carrollton, LaGrange, and Columbus, GA. He graduated from John Marshall Law School, and has been practicing for several years now. Tyler Moffitt takes great honor in defending the accused. Learn more about his experience by clicking here.