How can I enforce visitation rights when my spouse has full custody?
Enforcing visitation orders can be challenging. There are very few resources that can help you enforce this type of order, so it is best to try some of these things first, in this order:
- Does your order need updating?
Sometimes when an order is a few years old and the parents' situations have changed, the current schedule doesn't work well for one or both parents. It may be time to agree about a new schedule, or file a motion with the Court to come up with a new schedule that works better. Sometimes agencies won't help with enforcing an older visitation order.
- Do you have an enforceable order?
Make sure you have a court order that is very specific - with exact days and times when exchanges of the children will take place. If your order is not very specific -for example - it refers to "reasonable visitation" or "at times agreed to by the parents' - then you will need to first apply to the Court for an order that is enforceable.
- Could the order be made easier to enforce?
Sometimes a simple change of the exchange location can make the order easier to enforce. For example, instead of exchanging the children at the parents' homes, the children can simply be picked up and dropped off at school or childcare. In more extreme cases the parties can be ordered to exchange the children at a professional supervising agency. There is a fee for this, but they will track when the parents drop off and pick up the children.
- Contempt action
This means you are asking the Court to issue criminal-type punishment (like jail time) on the parent who is not following the visitation order. These are very difficult actions to win because your "burden of proof" is very high and because the other person will be appointed a free attorney if they can't afford one. You should consider hiring a private attorney for this type of action. The Court's Self-Help Center doesn't help with contempt actions.