What you can do if your coparent doesn’t return your child to you on time
Visitation schedules reinforce each parent’s roles and responsibilities in caring for their child after a separation or divorce. Under Michigan law, custodial agreements that address visitation rights are legally binding.
But sometimes a parent may run overtime with their child visits. Often this is simply the result of an unpredictable circumstance or innocent misunderstanding. But occasionally, especially if the co-parents are quarreling, it may be necessary to take serious steps to regain and enforce the timely return of your children.
If your children are late in coming back from a visit with the other parent, consider these steps.
How consistently does it happen?
The first thing to consider is how frequently and intentionally the delay in returning your child happens. Unforeseen events or changes in plans impact our daily schedules.
If your parenting partner only occasionally runs into delays of a few minutes (or even longer), it may not be a big deal. Often it’s not worth making relations more difficult between ex-spouses. Contact your ex if they haven’t returned your child on time to find out where they are and if the delay is an allowable one. Get a revised estimate of when they’ll be back.
If the late return of your child is a chronic or recurring issue, then it may be time to investigate why it’s happening and set new parameters around visitation.
Amend your parenting schedule
When delays in returning affect your timetable to point where it’s causing consistent disruption, consult with your ex to work out a schedule that better suits each of your needs. In most cases, it’s better to resolve the issues without legal proceedings if possible (in fact, that’s often the course of action courts will suggest themselves). If both parties are reasonable with each other, this is hopefully something easy to work out.
Contact a Friend of the Court
When your ex-partner consistently returns your children late and your communication is at an impasse, it’s time to consider your legal options. In Michigan, contacting a Friend Of The Court (FOC) is the first step in imposing your custody agreement.
The FOC is a representative of your circuit court’s family division. They’re legally required to enforce the visitation rights you and your ex-partner have negotiated. The FOC will examine your agreement, make suggestions about amending your visitation schedule, and attempt to resolve any disputes between you and your co-partner. They’ll also present their recommendations to the presiding judge should the matter escalate to the court system.
File a motion with the court
You may also ask the court to protect and reinforce the visitation schedule you and your partner have agreed to, without involving the FOC. The presiding judge may rule that you receive added compensatory visitation time; schedule a hearing for civil contempt; change certain provisions in your agreement; or refer you and your ex-partner to mediation.
Contact police with your court order
If all efforts to peacefully or legally resolve your issues have failed and your ex-partner still has your child, the state of Michigan may consider bringing kidnapping charges against your ex. Get in touch with your local police station (or, alternately, the prosecuting attorney) and present a copy of the court order addressing the visitation schedule.
Too much information?
We focus exclusively on family law matters so we are always available to answer your questions and help.