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What Happens if a Visitation Order Has Been Violated?

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What Happens if a Visitation Order Has Been Violated?

Long before there were Amber Alerts on smartphones, pictures of missing children appeared on milk cartons. This program began in neighboring Iowa in the early 1980s. Many people believed strangers had snatched these children. That was true in a few cases. But even today, the vast majority of child kidnappers are parents who do not have a legal right to possession at that point in time.

Occasionally, such violations are not much more than misunderstandings. Frequently, however, there is some degree of malice involved. So, to determine the appropriate response, a Rolling Meadows divorce attorney usually goes through a two-step process in court. Both parents, whether they are alleged kidnappers or not, have legal rights at each point.

Why Was the Order Violated?

As mentioned, either misunderstanding or malice usually prompts visitation order violations. However, there are various degrees of misunderstanding and malice.

Not all Rolling Meadows divorce lawyers are created equally. Specifically, they have different drafting skills. Sometimes, a child custody or visitation provision is either vague or outdated. For example, an order could state that the children must attend public school. A charter school, which might or might not have a religious affiliation, is a kind of public school. An outdated order could be “the children shall see Dr. X.” What happens if Dr. X retires, the children move, or circumstances otherwise change?

In these situations, the judge usually signs a clarifying order. Then, the judge releases both parties with a stern admonition to go forth and sin no more.

Malice usually involves Parental Alienation Syndrome (PAS). One parent tries to drive an emotional wedge between the other parent and the children. Mild PAS might include sudden, unannounced changes to visitation patterns. Extreme PAS might include moving with the children and not telling anyone about the relocation. 

There are almost always two sides to the story in these situations. Frequently, judges appoint social services workers to investigate these matters and determine what really happened.

What Legal Response is Appropriate?

A judge usually determines the appropriate response at a hearing. Sometimes, as mentioned above, a simple clarification might be best. If a parent intentionally violated the court order, possible penalties include reimbursement for attorneys’ fees and other costs, partial forfeited future visitation, or even wholesale changes to the custody order.

The pattern of violations, if any, is usually relevant, as well. As James Bond author Ian Fleming once wrote, once is happenstance, twice is coincidence, and thrice is enemy action. So, if there is no history of prior serious violations, many judges punish the parent who brought the enforcement action. The longer the pattern is, the more intense punishments are appropriate.

These punishments are possible because the at-fault parent violated a court order. Law enforcement and judges take such matters seriously.

No one wants to deal with motions to enforce. So, the resolutions almost always include a modification of the existing custody orders. Usually, the parties agree to the modifications, and the judge then approves them.

Connect With a Diligent Cook County Attorney

Judges almost always intervene if a child custody order is violated in a material way. For a free consultation with an experienced divorce lawyer in Rolling Meadows, contact Andrea Heckman Law, Ltd. Virtual and after-hours visits are available.

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Andrea Heckman

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