People often contact my office when a parent has failed to allow them to exercise their court-ordered visitation. Failing to allow a parent to exercise court-ordered visitation can result in an enforcement action being filed against the non-compliant party. If a court finds that a party willfully violated a court order, that party can be held in contempt, fined and ultimately sent to jail. Although it seems simple enough (violate a court order and be punished), the complaining parent often times has not done their part in following the order. Contempt actions are criminal in nature and the violations alleged must be precise in order to be successful.
In order for a parent to be held in contempt for denying access to a child, the complaining parent must follow the order and make an attempt to retrieve the child. For example, if the order says a parent is entitled to visitation on the 1st, 3rd and 5th weekend of the month at 6:00 p.m., that parent must attempt to pick up the child, at that time and on those dates. If the order says the parent shall pick up the child at a specific address, that parent must appear at that address. Many times, a parent will receive a text or other communication letting them know the child will not be available. That parent then fails to follow the order and attempt to pick up the child; the thought being “why show up if I know the child is not going to be there”?
The answer is, “show up so you can document the violation and address it in court if necessary”. A contempt action must show that the complaining party attempted to exercise visitation at the date, time and place specified in the order. If any one of those components are missing, the enforcement action will fail. The exercising parent has a right to exercise visitation and the other parent has a duty to release the child in accordance with the order. The other parent cannot violate an order by failing to release a child if the exercising parent does not show up to take possession of the child.
It is always better to attempt resolution to these issues prior to filing a contempt action however, if all else fails, hire an attorney to properly represent you in an enforcement action.
This above is a quick look at visitation and contempt in Texas and is not meant as legal advice. This area of family law is very complex . If you have question regarding the topic above, contact your Houston divorce lawyer, Shawn M. Rudisel, for a complimentary consultation today.
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