Is Withholding Visitation Against the Law?
Even in cases where one parent is granted sole physical custody of children, or an established custodial environment (ECE) is recognized, the noncustodial parent will be granted visitation, or parenting time, if the court considers it to be in the best interests of children. Naturally, this arrangement can be hard on both parents and children, but that doesn’t give the custodial parent the right to deny visitation that has been ordered by the court.
In some cases, it may be as simple as dropping kids off late or picking them up early. Or it could be allowing kids to schedule activities (sports, music lessons, play dates, etc.) during the other parent’s visitation time. It could be denying access to children for personal reasons. Regardless, it is against the law for one parent to deny court-ordered visitation to the other, and there are steps you can take to ensure that your custody and parenting time are enforced.
What Can You Do?
If the custodial parent habitually hinders or withholds visitation, your first step is to contact the Friend of the Court (FOC) office in your county, which is responsible for enforcing custody and parenting time orders, as well as child support payments. The FOC will help you to prepare a written complaint regarding denied parenting time or any terms of your custody or parenting time order that were violated by the other parent.
The other parent will be notified of the complaint, and if you file it within 56 days of the violation, the FOC may take one of several courses of action. They may order make-up parenting time to account for the time you missed; they may file a motion to modify the parenting time schedule; or, they may request an order for a show cause hearing, in which case you and the other parent will appear before the court so you can explain the parenting time violation. At this hearing, the judge may find the other parent in contempt and determine if changes need to be made.
What is Parental Kidnapping?
In some cases, denial of court-ordered visitation can actually be a felony crime, as in cases of parental kidnapping. This occurs when one parent withholds parenting time from the other parent for more than 24 hours without a valid legal defense.
Under the Michigan Penal Code, this is a felony crime, punishable by a fine of up to $2,000 and/or a prison sentence of up to a year and a day. Of course, most law enforcement officers and prosecutors aren’t willing to throw a parent in jail over this offense, especially if it is a single incident, so don’t count on using this to law to your advantage. You’re better off tracking violations and working with the FOC and the courts to make changes to custody or parenting time arrangements if the other parent habitually withholds visitation.
If you’re having problems enforcing your parenting time, you need an experienced lawyer to ensure your rights are upheld. Contact the experts at The Gucciardo Law Firm today at 248-723-5190 or online to get started.
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