Custody and visitation orders in Georgia are based on the best
interests of the children involved. Parents can agree on how to share
custody and visitation as long as the agreement meets their child’s best
interests. Regardless of whether the court or the parents decide on the
parenting arrangement, the court will issue an order that includes a
detailed plan stating when a child is to be with each parent, and both
parents must comply with the order.
This article provides an
overview of the consequences that might result from a parent’s violation
of a custody or visitation order.
Violating Custody and Visitation Orders
- Blocking Visitation.
A parent who makes a child unavailable for court-ordered visitation,
including arranging the child’s schedule so that other activities
interfere with visitation time, is violating the court’s orders. The
benefit of having a specific order outlining when a child is to spend
time with each parent is that the order provides a clear directive to
police and gives them the authority to enforce it. If your child’s other
parent has been denying you visitation, bring a copy of your order with
you when you go to pick up your child. If the other parent claims that
the child isn’t at home or doesn’t want to see you, call the police and
show them your order. Even if you don’t succeed in seeing your child,
you will have documented your attempt to comply with the parenting order
and the other parent’s interference.
- Blocking Communication.
Activities such as blocking phone calls or emails between the child and
the other parent may or may not be a specific violation of a parenting
order, but these kinds of activities interfere with the parent-child
relationship, and a court will be less likely to grant custody to a
parent who engages in such behavior.
- Children Refusing to Visit. Parents
are responsible for encouraging children to spend time with their other
parent. If a judge believes that a child isn't spending time with one
parent because of the actions of the other—including actions such as
influencing the child by speaking negatively about the other parent—may
order one of the remedies outlined below, which could include changing
the custodial parent.
- Denying Visitation for Non-Payment of Child Support. Sometimes,
a parent that isn't receiving child support payments on time feels
entitled to withhold visitation. Parents must understand that visitation
and support are two entirely separate matters. A parent who has not
received support on time can contact the Division of Child Support Services of the Georgia Department of Human Services
(DCSS), or file a motion in court to enforce payments, but must never
use the children as bargaining chips. Similarly, if one parent is
blocking access to the children, the other parent must seek help from
the courts, not withhold child support.
- Parent Consistently Missing Visitation. Failing
to arrive for scheduled visitation times or constantly arriving late is
also contrary to a child’s best interests. Children need to know that
parents care enough to make consistent efforts to spend time with them. A
parent who doesn’t fulfill this responsibility risks losing future
Consequences of Interference with Custody or Visitation
a parent violates a Georgia court order regarding custody or
visitation, the other parent can file a motion asking the court to
enforce the order and hold the parent in contempt. The exact procedure
will depend on which county you live in; many county courts have forms
that you can fill out on your own. You’ll have to serve (deliver) your
motion (legal paperwork) on the other parent, and the court will set a
hearing date, generally within 30 days of service. If you need help
finding the right court or forms, you can consult the Georgia Judicial
Branch’s Self-Help Resources. You can also contact your local court or a local family law attorney for more specific information.
Georgia court can’t order a change in custody at a contempt hearing,
but it can order changes to visitation arrangements. If a custodial
parent repeatedly interferes with the visitation rights of the
non-custodial parent, this is grounds for a change in custody, but the
non-custodial parent will have to bring a separate motion for
modification of the custody order.
Possible remedies a court might consider for interference with custody and visitation include:
- ordering “make-up” visitation
- ordering the interfering parent to attend parenting classes
- ordering the interfering parent to pay any costs resulting from the interference
- changing the children’s transportation arrangements or the pick-up location, and
the interfering parent in contempt of court and imposing a fine or even
sending the parent to jail (this is typically reserved for cases where
the interference has been serious or ongoing).
with court-ordered custody can amount to a criminal act under Georgia
law. A non-custodial parent who keeps a child under 17 away from a
custodial parent, including failing to return the child after expiration
of court-ordered visitation time, is committing criminal interference
with custody under Georgia law. Even a single instance of this kind of
interference is a misdemeanor punishable by a fine, jail time, or both; a
third conviction is a felony. If the parent removes the child from the
state, or keeps the child out of state after expiration of a legal
out-of-state visitation period, the offense is interstate interference
with custody, which is always a felony.
Even if you believe that
your child is in danger from the other parent, you need to be very
careful about taking matters into your own hands. Contact an attorney or
Georgia Child Protective Services
to find out how best to protect yourself and your child to ensure that a
court doesn’t end up charging you with contempt of court or
interference with custody. If the situation is an emergency, call the
police. If you can’t afford an attorney, your county court can provide
you with the location of a family violence shelter or social service
agency that can help you file a motion for emergency protective relief.