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What Is Custodial Interference? 

In short, custodial interference occurs when one parent deliberately interferes with the other parent’s court ordered parent time. Many parents have come up with creative methods to keep their children away from the other parent. A parent may tell their ex that the child is sick and cannot go with them for parent time. They may also claim that the child refuses to go with the other parent for parent time. Neither are acceptable reasons for denying a parent their ordered time. Another form of custodial interference includes one parent constantly making up excuses as to why they cannot drop off the child at the appointed time. A parent may come up with elaborate ways to manipulate the child into avoiding time with their other parent: “We’re going to Disneyland next month, but it’s during Daddy’s parent-time, so you’ll have to ask him whether or not you get to go.” This scenario puts the father in a no-win situation as he’ll be the bad guy if he doesn’t let his child go to Disneyland, but if he does let her go, he’ll miss out on time with his child. In the most dramatic situations, custodial interference may mean taking the child and refusing to return the child at all. 

Can’t You Call the Police? 

So, your ex is refusing to hand the child over during your parent time—can’t you just call the police? Technically, yes. You can call the police, they’ll file a report and, depending on where you’re located and the laws in your state, they might make your ex hand the child over. However, it should be noted that this can be traumatic for the children, especially if they’re particularly young and lack the capacity to understand why the police are at their house. In some cases, the police will first call the withholding parent to inform them that they need to comply with the order and facilitate the transition of the child. If that doesn’t work, they may go to the house to assist in compelling the transition of the child. In many cases, it may be in the child’s best interests to keep their involvement and knowledge of the situation to an absolute minimum. This may mean that you don’t call the police when your ex doesn’t allow you to see the children. 

When the Child Is Older 

Things can get trickier when the child gets older. Though parents should still encourage their children to spend time with the other parent, older children and teenagers generally have much more control over the situation than toddlers do. You might be able to pick up your six-month-old child and force him to go with your ex—you probably won’t be able to do this when the same child is sixteen years old and taller than you. But your inability to physically force your child to go with your ex doesn’t give you a free pass to do nothing. If your ex has parent-time, you may want to do what you can to get your child to go with your ex. If your ex can prove that you are alienating the child, you could lose custody. 

What if There’s Abuse? 

Having reason to suspect that your child is experiencing abuse does not give you the right to refuse your ex’s parent time—even if you have legitimate reason to be concerned. If you believe that your child is being abused and/or neglected by your ex, you need to speak to a family law attorney who can represent your child’s best interests and help protect the child. Contacting DCFS may be a viable option, however, it is likely in your best interests to consult an attorney before you contact DCFS. DCFS does not have the authority to remove a child from a dangerous situation, modify custody orders, or change custody arrangements. Instead, their role is to investigate and report their findings. An attorney will likely have better advice on how you can keep your child safe. This typically involves seeking an emergency order to temporarily stop parent-time until the issues of abuse can be addressed appropriately. If you believe your child is experiencing abuse, make sure to document everything thoroughly and contact an attorney as soon as possible. 

When Will the Court Act? 

When it comes to custodial interference, family law courts are not always ready to take action as soon as you’d like and, in many cases, they may not take the action you’d like them to take. Your attorney can help you understand what you can expect and what you can do to get the best results. Documenting all instances of custodial interference and any evidence of alienation may be a good starting point. In your notes, make sure you include dates, circumstances, and any excuse your ex has given you pertaining to why you cannot see the children during your court-ordered parent-time. Custodial interference can also be a criminal matter where a prosecutor will have to file charges—and a police report will need to be filed in order for this to occur. Prosecutors don’t always file charges, so you may have to seek action through a civil court. If you’re looking for the best results, contact an attorney today. 


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