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What to Do When Your Ex Violates the Custody Order

Conceptual photo about Civil Contempt of Court with written text on the chalkboard.

When an ex spouse violates a custody order, they can be held in civil contempt of court, and penalties that range from a simple warning from the court to jail time are possible. Parents need to understand their own rights in custody violation cases as well as what measures they can take to protect their children. The goal of custody arrangements is to provide both parents with parenting rights while protecting the best interests of the children. These arrangements are legally binding; violating them may trigger the other spouse’s family law attorney to seek penalties against custodial parent.

Conceptual photo about Civil Contempt of Court with written text on the chalkboard.

What Is Civil Contempt of Court?

Civil contempt of court is applied when a civil court orders a party, in this case a parent, to act, and the individual willfully does not do so. When civil contempt is applied, the offending party may be ordered to pay the other party’s attorney fees or could even be ordered to go to jail until they are able to comply with the request. Either the custodial parent or the non-custodial parent can be found in civil contempt, if they do not fulfill the terms of the custody order.

What Parents Can Do When a Violation Occurs

When an ex-spouse violates a custody order, the offended party can file a motion for the case to go back to court. Often, a family law attorney will help with this motion. Proper preparation for the upcoming court process will help the parent get the best possible outcome.

What Happens at Court?

At court, the judge will look at the ex-spouse’s history to determine if violations are a habit, or if they are the exception. If the event seems to be unusual, the offending parent may just get a warning. Also, if the event was not a serious violation, such as if the offending parent was simply late to fulfill their responsibilities, rather than negligent, a warning is likely.

However, any time a court order is violated, including custody orders, the individual may go to jail. If the judge decides to find the individual in contempt of court, the ex-spouse will be taken into custody and could serve jail time. Behavior in court can also lead to this ruling.

Finally, the court may decide to change the custody agreement based on the petition and the findings. Often the goal of changing the order is to provide the parent whose time or rights were violated with more time or influence on their children.

Uncontested divorce lawyer Denise Erlich is passionate about helping divorcing couples in the greater Chicagoland area transition to their new life as seamlessly as possible. Ms. Erlich patiently guides her clients through every step of the divorce process and provides clients with candid advice about their case and legal options, so they can make informed decisions about their future.

Years of Experience: More than 20 years
Illinois Registration Status: Active
Bar & Court Admissions: Illinois State Bar Association U.S. District Court, Northern District of Illinois
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