Enforcing Child Custody and Visitation Rights in New York

Child custody and visitation disputes are common during and after a divorce. Society generally favors having minor children maintain a close relationship with both parents, even when they live in separate households. Unless otherwise ordered by a court, people have a right to see their minor children. However, enforcing those rights can be challenging.

In custody or visitation enforcement actions, the first issue is whether there is a valid court order in effect. Some unmarried parents will make informal custody and visitation arrangements without involving the court. While this avoids conflict at the start, it can become a disadvantage should the parents eventually have a disagreement over the child. If the parents’ arrangement is not well documented, enforcement might be difficult or legally impossible. While the parents would still be bound by provisions of state custody law, many issues could remain unresolved.

When custody and visitation orders are in place, there are different strategies and remedies available. Enforcement can be a series of increasingly serious actions against the party who is not following the orders. One party can initially contact the other informally to voice their complaint and try to work things out themselves. Another option is for the parties to seek mediation of any dispute or disagreement. A good mediator can often help the parties find a solution at relatively low cost. Finally, the parties can seek court action to compel compliance under threat of sanctions.

While going to court is usually the option of last resort, it is sometimes necessary. One party might be completely obstinate and have to be forced into compliance by a judge. A few people will breach custody or visitation orders just to annoy or harass the other party. A court order can limit the noncompliant spouse’s visitation or custody rights and require that spouse to pay the other’s attorney’s fees. In extreme cases, a court might even hold the offender in criminal contempt.

That doesn’t mean a parent should seek enforcement for every minor violation of a custody and visitation order. Things happen. People get caught in traffic. Someone gets sick. Kids lose track of time. Common sense and common courtesy go a long way. However, when violations are significant and/or happen too frequently, taking legal action is appropriate. People with custody issues should seek the advice of a competent child custody attorney to review their options.

Located in Rochester, New York, the Law Office of Maurice Verrillo, P.C. is a full-service law firm. Our family law attorney will competently and diligently protect your rights to be with your children while remaining sensitive to their needs and well-being. If you have a child custody or visitation matter to discuss, feel free to contact us online or call 585-563-1134 for an initial phone consultation.


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