My Ex Won’t Abide by Custody Arrangements, What Do I Do?
Going through the child custody process was overwhelming, emotionally taxing and stressful for you and your children. But once you or the judge worked out an arrangement, it gave you some relief. You had legal documents explaining exactly how custody and visitation would work, and at any time you could request to modify them if circumstances substantially changed.
Now, however, your ex is not following your custody arrangement. Maybe they aren’t coming to pick up your kids on the weekends or they’re not returning your kids to you when it’s your designated time. Whatever the case, it’s incredibly frustrating and you may not know what to do.
Thankfully, there is legal action you can pursue to try and remedy the situation. Here are some important options to consider:
Ask Your Lawyer to Send a Letter to Your Ex
Your family lawyer can send a letter to your ex to let them know they are violating the order in some manner, and that there could be negative consequences if they disregard the agreement they have with you. Your ex will hopefully take this letter seriously because if they don’t, they know they could face legal repercussions and hurt their chances of continuing with a favorable custody arrangement.
Go Into Mediation
Mediation often works well, but only if both you and your ex are not abusive and/or combative people. A mediator is a neutral party who could help you both hash out an agreement that you could make legally binding afterwards. For example, maybe your ex is constantly dropping your child off late because they have a demanding job; you could perhaps change the drop off time to be more accommodating, or ask your ex to hire a nanny to drop off your child instead.
In lieu of formal mediation, you and your ex can always discuss modifications to your agreement. If such changes are meant to be long-term (vs. e.g. just a one-time switch in weekends), it would be wise to make the changes in writing and sign them so there’s no question about the terms of your modification later.
File for Contempt
If you’ve tried all of the above without success, you can file for contempt of court, and your ex will have to appear in court and explain why they are not following your custody arrangement. This should be a last resort, however, because it can be expensive and time-consuming. This option should only be used if your ex has repeatedly disregarded your custody arrangement and it can be proven.
Other Steps to Take
No matter what you decide, you need to follow the right protocols when taking action. Document everything, including late pick ups and drop offs, times when your ex never showed up, text messages and emails they sent you, phone calls you had, etc. Make sure to note the time and date of everything, and try to have communication over email as much as possible so that you have it in writing.
Know the specific terms of your order and agreement so you will be able to effectively document any potential violations of it.
Try not to argue with your ex or let it get heated, especially if your children are around. If you send an angry text, for instance, it could be used against you in court. You always want to be the bigger person, even if though it may not be easy.
If there is abuse going on or you genuinely feel your child is in danger, call the police or DSS right away. Some circumstances that may come up are if your ex is physically or emotionally abusive to your child, they are addicted to drugs or alcohol, or their home is dangerous for any variety of reasons.
It’s also important not to put down your ex in front of your children or remove them from their school, friends, family or other support system unless absolutely necessary. Though it may not look bad in court or harm your case, it could have a devastating effect on your children.
Above all, best practice is to be sure any changes you make are legally binding. For example, if you enter into an informal modification agreement, it is best to seek Court approval of that agreement so it can be legally enforceable in the future and so you have solid recourse in the event it is violated.
Contact Cate & Brough Law Firm
To ensure you’re properly informed of all your recourse options in case of contempt, it is important to hire a family lawyer to assist you. That’s where Cate & Brough Law Firm can help. Our lawyers will be able to guide you through the custody modification and/or contempt action process and let you know what legal action is available to you when your ex isn’t honoring your agreement. We can file your legal documents for you as well as mediate and go to court with you should it come to that.
If you need help with your child custody arrangements in South Carolina, don’t hesitate to reach out to Cate & Brough Law Firm today.