When parents of a child divorce in Bloomington, IL, they must have some sort of child custody agreement that determines the parental rights and responsibilities of the child’s parents following the end of the marriage. Child custody arrangements are important legal decisions that can impact a family in many ways for years to come, so it’s crucial to understand what your custody agreement entails before signing. It’s always best to work with an experienced family law attorney if you are unsure about your parental rights and ensure the best outcome in a child custody determination.

A child custody agreement is an official court order. Once the order is finalized and entered into the record, all parties involved in the agreement must abide by the order’s terms to the letter. Violating such an order in any way can entail severe penalties, even if you believe the order is unfair or unbalanced. There are procedures to follow if you need to challenge or contest a child custody order, but it is never wise to violate a child custody agreement knowingly.

Potential Violations of a Child Custody Agreement

A child custody agreement typically stipulates how much time a child will spend with each of their parents. The custody agreement will outline not only physical custody and visitation time for each parent but also the level of legal custody each parent has. In completely joint legal custody arrangements, each parent has an equal say when making decisions on behalf of the child. It’s not uncommon for a child custody agreement to include separate terms for physical custody and legal custody. For example, a child custody agreement may stipulate that the mother will be the primary caregiver with the child spending most of their time in the mother’s home. At the same time, the father retains joint legal custody and must be involved in major decisions for the child.

A child custody agreement violation occurs when a parent fails to fulfill their responsibilities or knowingly refuses to do so. A few common examples of child custody agreement violations include:

  • Refusing to pick up or drop off children at appointed times.
  • Failing to notify the other parent of a major event such as an injury or illness requiring hospitalization.
  • Refusing to return children to a custodial parent at the conclusion of visitation time.
  • Traveling with children out of state without the other parent’s consent and/or knowledge.
  • Refusing to pay for a child’s basic expenses during custodial times.
  • Kidnapping or threatening to kidnap a child.
  • Making major decisions on the child’s behalf without informing the other custodial parent.
  • Refusing communication with the child’s other parent.

These are only a few examples of how a parent could potentially violate a child custody agreement. When such a violation occurs, the other parent may not know what to do to correct the situation and hold their co-parent responsible. Many child custody agreements will include provisions for violations, including outlining penalties for possible violations. However, this may not be the case. A parent will need to consult with an experienced family law attorney to determine the best resolution to a child custody agreement violation.

First Steps After a Custody Violation in Bloomington

Your first priority should always be your child’s safety when it comes to a child custody violation. It’s also important to be realistic and reasonable when it comes to child custody violations. If your co-parent is scheduled to drop off your children at the end of their visitation time at 5:00 p.m. but are stuck in traffic and do not arrive until 6:00 p.m., this likely would not constitute a true violation of the child custody agreement. However, if they refused to answer their phone and did not drop off the children until 11:00 p.m., with no clear explanation as to what took so long, this situation is different. That example is a clearer violation of the custody agreement and may lead to penalties for the parent responsible for the violation.

If a co-parent has committed a true custody agreement violation and you believe your children may be in danger, call the police immediately. They may be able to perform a safety and wellness check on the co-parent’s residence and help you understand the situation more clearly. Your attorney can help you determine your best available legal options if the police determine your ex has endangered your children through a custody violation.

Depending on the nature of a child custody agreement violation, the parent in violation may face fines, criminal penalties, or even reduced parental rights. If the child custody agreement included enforceable provisions for penalizing custody violations, these penalties would also take effect.

Altering Your Child Custody Agreement

All parents must remember that it is never worth the risk of violating a child custody agreement. Even if you believe your child custody agreement is unfair or unbalanced, a violation could potentially reduce your parental rights even further and damage your relationships with your children. Instead of violating your child custody agreement, work with an experienced family law attorney to determine whether you may be able to adjust, amend, or modify your child custody agreement.

It’s best to be cooperative and agreeable when it comes to child custody. The more diplomatic you and your co-parent are willing to be toward one another, the smoother your child custody-related interactions will go in the future. Eventually, you can work out better child custody agreements that suit both of you and your children better as time goes on.

Post-judgment modifications can allow divorced parents to adjust child support and child custody arrangements as they experience new life events. For example, a change in a parent’s job or the appearance of a new medical ailment could considerably alter the existing child custody arrangement. If you believe that your child custody arrangement needs to be modified, an attorney can help you file a post-judgment motion and have it corrected the right way. It is never worth risking the potential penalties of a child custody agreement violation, so consult with an attorney about your legal options instead.