Child custody and child support are family law issues that can influence your life for many years. When you have a family court order pertaining to child custody and child support in Springfield, MO, you must abide by the terms of the order to the letter or risk facing severe penalties, including loss of your parental rights. If your co-parent has violated the terms of your custody or support agreement in Springfield, MO, it’s vital to know what you can do to rectify the situation.
An experienced Springfield, MO, family law attorney is your best resource for specific answers to your unique questions. Review the following information to learn more about what you can expect after your ex has violated your custody or support terms.
What Qualifies as a Family Court Order Violation?
A family court order violation is any action that is contrary to the terms outlined in the order. This can mean very different things for different families. A few possible examples of family court order violations include:
- Refusing to return a child to their other parent at the end of a visitation or custody period. Depending on the severity of the situation, this could result in kidnapping charges for the parent engaging in this behavior.
- Taking the child out of the state without informing the other parent and obtaining their consent. This is another matter that could result in kidnapping charges, and such incidents involving travel across state lines typically incur harsher penalties for the parent who does this.
- Failure or refusal to pay child support on time and in full. Parents paying child support must make their payments on time and in full. If a paying parent is unable to meet their support obligation due to one-off circumstances beyond their control, they should notify the receiving parent and attempt to make alternative arrangements.
- Failure or refusal to communicate with the other parent about major issues concerning their child, such as a medical emergency. If your child is injured or becomes sick, you must inform their other parent immediately if the two of you share custody.
- Making major medical decisions on a child’s behalf without informing their other parent. When parents share legal custody of a child, they must consult one another regarding any significant medical issues before taking any action.
- Exposing a child to a dangerous situation or allowing them to remain in the company of known dangerous individuals.
- Abusing a child in any way.
Most parents will develop very specific provisions in their custody and support determinations to suit their family’s needs. For example, a custody order may dictate that a child must spend holidays with both parents for half the day each or some similar arrangement. If a parent wishes to alter this agreement for a holiday, they will need the other parent’s consent.
What Is Contempt of Court?
Contempt of court is just one of many potential penalties a parent could face for violating a custody order. The penalties for contempt of court remain within the purview of the judge overseeing the matter. The judge may order the party in violation to rectify their violation of the order, such as unpaid child support, or they may sentence them to fines or jail time depending on the severity of their violation.
Other Penalties for Custody and Support Violations
Depending on the circumstances of a family court order violation, the judge handling the matter may issue several possible penalties. In the case of unpaid child support, the judge will likely compel the nonpaying parent to remit back child support, sometimes with interest, and set forth additional requirements. For example, they may consult the nonpaying parent’s employer to arrange wage garnishment, ensuring a percentage of each paycheck is automatically paid to their child’s custodial parent.
Ultimately, the penalties for knowingly violating a custody or support order can be pretty severe. Aside from wage garnishment for unpaid support, it is also possible for the parent in violation to face fines, jail time, and even loss of their custody rights.
I’ve Been Accused of Violating My Custody Order. What Can I Do?
Sometimes parents cannot abide by the terms of their custody and support orders due to reasons entirely beyond their control. If your co-parent has accused you of some violation of your custody or support order, it is vital to consult a Springfield, MO, family law attorney as soon as possible to determine your best next steps.
If you can prove that your violation resulted from circumstances entirely beyond your control, this would be an affirmative defense against contempt of court. For example, your ex accuses you of refusing to pay child support, but you recently developed a medical condition that prevents you from working and leaves you disabled. This would be a circumstance entirely beyond your control. In this situation, the court would likely seek to alter your current custody and support agreement to reflect your change in medical status and ability to pay child support.
How Can a Parent Lose Custody Rights in Springfield, MO?
Parents can potentially lose their custody rights voluntarily or involuntarily under Missouri state law. When it comes to voluntary termination of parental rights, there must be a stepparent willing to take the place of the parent surrendering their parental rights. To grant a petition for voluntary surrender of parental rights, the court must deem that the termination of the parent’s custody rights suits the best interests of the child.
As far as an involuntary termination of parental rights is concerned, this can occur if a parent commits certain felonies, engages in domestic violence against their child, or if they harm their child in any other way. If the court deems that terminating a parent’s parental rights would suit the best interests of their child, there is very little the parent in question can do to contest this. Additionally, if your parental rights are involuntarily terminated, this will not affect your child support obligation, and in many cases, will result in you paying more child support.
If you believe your child’s other parent has violated your family court order in any way, consult your attorney immediately. If the issue involves any type of emergency, contact the police first and then consult your attorney to determine the best next steps to take. A Springfield, MO, family law attorney is a great asset when you face any situation involving a custody or support order violation.