A court-issued child custody order typically includes a determination of legal and physical custody, as well as the amount and type of visitation. Under California law, courts will endeavor to craft an arrangement that serves the best interests of the child. Some of the items a court will look at include the child’s age and health, the relationship between the parents and child, each parent’s ability to care for the child, any history of substance abuse or family violence, and the child’s connection to home, school, and the community. Custody and visitation are two of the most important issues to resolve in a separation or divorce proceeding. To protect your family’s rights, it is important to consult with an experienced San Diego family law attorney as early as possible in the process.
It is important to remember that in California, a court can grant either parent custody of the children, or the parents can share custody. For all parties involved, including the children, it is ideal if the parents are able to agree to the custody and visitation arrangement (also known as a “parenting plan”). And while a judge has the authority to make the final decision about custody and visitation, he or she typically will approve the parents’ mutually agreed upon arrangement. If the parents cannot agree, the judge will render a decision at a court hearing. In some unfortunate cases, one parent, or even the children, may fail to heed the court-ordered arrangement.
According to national news reports, a judge in Michigan chastised three siblings, ranging from ages nine to 15, for failing to have lunch with their father. The judge found the kids to be in contempt of the court’s order to have a “healthy relationship” with their father. She then ordered them to a juvenile detention facility and mandated that they each have limited contact with one another. Apparently, the court action is part of a bitter divorce and custody battle between the parents. According to reports, the children alleged that their father was abusive and that is why they have defied the court’s order. The judge, however, blamed the mother for “poisoning” the children’s opinions of their father.
In most cases, if a child does not obey a custody order, one of the parents will be deemed responsible. The California court’s website sets forth certain actions a parent can take if the other parent violates the custody and visitation court order. These options include contacting your local police department and requesting that they enforce the order, reaching out to the local district attorney through the Child Abduction and Recovery Unit, and perhaps filing a contempt action with the court. A contempt action involves asking the court to enforce the custody and visitation order and to issue a finding that the other parent willfully disobeyed the court order.
Critics of the judge in the above-referenced Michigan case say it is the parents and not the children who should be “punished” for the failure to obey the court’s order. While this is a unique and disturbing consequence of failing to heed a custody order, keep in mind that courts do take it very seriously when a parent does not adhere to the terms of the court-ordered parenting plan. Child custody and visitation issues are important concerns for the entire family. An experienced attorney can guide you through the process. Roy M. Doppelt is a seasoned divorce attorney who has more than 20 years of experience assisting clients in San Diego and throughout the State of California with all of their family law needs. To schedule a free confidential consultation, call Doppelt & Forney toll-free at (800) ROY IS IT (769-4748) or contact us through the law firm’s website.
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