What if Your Ex Won’t Follow the Custody Agreement
Child custody hearings can be exhausting and can take a physical and mental toll on everyone involved. However, once the evidence is presented and a judge makes a child custody ruling, both parties are legally bound to abide by the agreement. Unfortunately, there are many instances where one parent/party ignores the ruling or finds subtle ways to bend the rules. If your Ex starts to do either of these things, you will need to know your options as well as the law and contact a lawyer to make sure the custody agreement is enforced.
Custody Agreements Are Binding in Arkansas
The law in Arkansas says that both parties must follow the judge’s order. This includes visitations, living schedules, and child support payments. If one party is not obeying the rules, the other party can request a special hearing or present evidence at an upcoming one; however, the original ruling must be followed until the judge makes a new one. So even if your Ex stops obeying the rules, you will still need to follow them.
Is Your Ex Violating the Custody Plan?
There are obvious and subtle methods that your Ex might try to use while trying to disobey a child custody ruling. Examples of this may include:
- Withholding Visitation – One parent refuses to allow the child(ren) to visit during scheduled visitation and living times.
- Canceling Scheduled Times – One parent cancels visitations or living times without your consent or approval.
- Finding Ways to Keep the Child(ren) Longer – If one parent is legally allowed to see the child(ren) for a set amount of time, they cannot extend their visitation. While this might not seem like a big deal (like if one parent is running late), it can be used to manipulate the custody plan or even provide support for changing a custody plan. Court-appointed boundaries should always be respected.
- Scheduling Activities During Your Times – This happens when one parent schedules something with the child(ren) during the other’s visitation times. If both parents agree, it is usually not an issue, but if this is done repeatedly, you may want to talk to an attorney as it is a manipulation of the custody plan.
- Making Poor Decisions or Being Involved in the Inappropriate Activities – When this happens, a judge may appoint one parent as the sole decision maker for the child(ren). This means the other parent will have no rights when it comes to the child(ren)’s care and may not try to help in any way.
What to Do if Your Ex is Not Obeying the Custody Agreement?
When one parent doesn’t follow the rules, it is easy to become upset and try to solve matters on your own; however, involving the right people (the police, your lawyer, etc.) is key to ensuring your and your child’s rights are being met and gives you the best possible outcome.
- Should You Call Your Lawyer? – Yes, and it is imperative that your contact you attorney sooner rather than later. They will be able to advise you on you best next steps, whether your case might need to be revisited or if more extreme actions might need to be taken.Remember, though, that until a new ruling is made, the previous ruling is still in force even if you call your lawyer to make changes to the agreement. So, do not stop abiding by your established order, including any child support payments.
- Can You Call the Police? – If your child(ren) are in danger, you’re not sure where they are, or if you think your Ex has fled with them, call the police immediately. Unfortunately, there are incidents where this happens.
- Can You Use Mediation to Resolve Issues? – Yes. If your ex disobeys the agreement, you can file a motion to have the case reevaluated through mediation. If you’re worried about the cost or whether you have a legitimate argument, the Arkansas Access & Visitation Mediation Program can help.
What are You NOT Allowed to Do?
Most importantly, do not take the law into your own hands. Do not jump in a car and speed to your Ex’s house or publicly confront your Ex. Not only could this traumatize your children, it could be used against you in future custody hearings.
Can Custody Disputes Affect Child Support?
Remember, while the disagreements/infractions are happening, the approved child support payments must continue. One person not following the rules does not mean the other person shouldn’t. If you can demonstrate your Ex’s failure to comply in future hearings, it may influence child support amounts going forward.
Get Help with Your Child Custody Case
To truly get the best outcome for you and your child(ren), you will need a lawyer who knows the laws and how to ensure your custody plan is respected.