When a Custodial Parent Interferes with Visitation Rights

The state of California makes very clear the importance of a child’s continuous interactions with both parents. It recommends joint custody as the preferred form of custody, unless other circumstances apply. California also takes the obligation to pay child support very seriously. Failure to pay child support can cause contempt orders to be issued against the violator. Further, there is no statute of limitations on child support arrearages: once support is owed, it is always owed.

Thus, when a custodial parent, without legal justification, prevents the other parent from visiting with his/her child, the family law court will take action against the offender. Often, these matters consist of the custodial parent concealing the child from the other parent or flat-out preventing the non-custodial parent from interactions with the child.

The actions the court will take include:

  • Contempt – including fining and/or imprisoning the offender;

  • Spousal support modification – lower or even terminate spousal support, if the custodial parent receives spousal support from the other parent;

  • Bond – require the custodial parent to post a bond ensuring compliance with the visitation order;

  • Injunction – including orders to prevent the custodial parent from moving or leaving the area to prevent visitation;

  • Change custody – to the non-custodial parent; and/or

  • Reimbursement – from the custodial parent for all reasonable financial aspects the non-custodial parent took to regain child visitation.

What the court will not do is change the amount of child support ordered, nor waive (remove as if never owed) child support that is already owed. Child support is issued based on the needs of the child and the parent’s ability to pay. The fact that a parent is not able to see his/her child does not change the need for the child’s financial support. Nor will the court waive back support not paid because the parent did not know where the child was or where to send payment.

The non-custodial parent may have other options outside of family court, depending upon the specific circumstances, in civil court and/or criminal court.

Because family law can be so technical in custody and visitation situations, it is recommended that a family law specialist consulted for assistance.

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