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Can Police Enforce a Child Custody Order?

by | June 21, 2021 | 0 comments

The question of “Can police enforce a child custody order in Virginia?” is one that is very commonly asked, and the answer to this generally depends on a few different things. The situation can be tricky and often messy when children become involved. It can be hard to shield children from the ugly parts of divorce, especially when police are in the mix. It is tough enough just hearing from one parent, but having an intimidating police officer show up at your door on top of that can potentially increase the emotional damage inflicted on a child. This is not always a factor, as police are generally not needed in these scenarios. However, there are certainly times where they may need to step in. 

The experienced and well-rounded attorneys at Manassas Law Group know how to handle family law and child custody cases both with and without police involvement. In this case, we will tell you when police are able to enforce a child custody order.

Can the Police Get involved in Child Custody in Virginia?

Though it is not particularly common, police may be able to get involved directly with your custody case. For example, police are legally able to enforce the order in situations where certain actions are taken that are directly prohibited by the order. Say the order states that one parent must drop the child off on a certain day at a certain time. If they do not adhere to this order, the police are legally able to step in to enforce that order. 

Just because they are able to doesn’t always mean they will, though. In reality, police officers are typically reluctant to involve themselves in child custody or other civil matters unless it rises to the level of a crime. This may include serious offenses such as kidnapping or child abuse, for example. 

However, this is not to say that you shouldn’t try to involve the police when it comes to custody violations. If you have any inclination that your child is in danger, it important to call the police immediately. When it comes to the safety of your child, you never want to take chances. Even if nothing comes of it immediately, at the very least an officer can direct you back to the courts. Simply having that police report may significantly help your case.

Violation of Child Custody Order

There are a number of ways a parent might violate the terms of their child custody order. Some examples of common custody agreement violations include:

  • Failing to return the child at the appointed time
  • Failing to retrieve the child at the appointed time
  • Picking up the child at a non-appointed time
  • Showing up to visit at a non-appointed time

In other cases, if the agreement makes it clear, sending another person to retrieve the child may also result in a violation. 

It is important to assess each individual violation to determine whether it was intentionally and knowingly committed. If you believe this is the case, document the incidents as they occur. That way, you will have specific evidence of each violation in the event that the matter goes to court. 

Violations of a child custody agreement could result in serious penalties for the responsible parent. These penalties may include anything from a change to the terms of the agreement to a misdemeanor or even a felony.

Code of Virginia § 18.2-49.1

According to Virginia’s custody laws and the Code of Virginia § 18.2-49.1, custody violations that may result in criminal penalties include the following:

  • Any person who knowingly, wrongfully, and intentionally withholds a child from either of a child’s parents or other legal guardian in a clear and significant violation of a court order respecting the custody or visitation of such child, provided such child is withheld outside of the Commonwealth, is guilty of a Class 6 felony.
  • Any person who knowingly, wrongfully, and intentionally engages in conduct that constitutes a clear and significant violation of a court order respecting the custody or visitation of a child is guilty of a Class 3 misdemeanor upon conviction of a first offense. Anyone who commits a second violation of this section within 12 months of a first conviction is guilty of a Class 2 misdemeanor, and any person who commits a third violation occurring within 24 months of the first conviction is guilty of a Class 1 misdemeanor.  

How To Enforce a Court Order for Visitation

If your child’s other parent develops a pattern of violating the court-ordered agreement, the first thing you should do is talk to them directly. Working towards an agreement without involving the court may usually be the best option. If discussing the issue with the other parent doesn’t remedy the situation, do not attempt to enforce the agreement on your own. For example, ceasing to make child support payments or keeping your child for longer than the allotted time without the other parent’s consent may end up backfiring on you. Instead, speak with an experienced family law attorney to learn more about your rights and options. 

Our Virginia child custody attorneys at Manassas Law Group can help you identify your legal needs and begin developing a strategy for how better to enforce a visitation court order.

Filing a Police Report for Child Custody

Many parents’ first inclination when there has been a violation of a custody order is to contact the police. Like we said before, however, many jurisdictions are often hesitant to involve themselves in these civil matters. Instead, they may simply refer you to take it up with the court. That is, of course, unless the violation brings the potential for criminal activity. 

Though police will likely not address the situation directly, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t reach out to law enforcement. For example, if the other parent is violating the terms of your agreement such as interfering with your visitation. Police may still arrive at the scene in order to prevent a domestic dispute from escalating. In addition, you can file a police report documenting the interference. This will be beneficial to your claim in family court later on. The family court may be able to provide remedies for these violations, including modification of the custody order, reimbursement of attorney’s fees, extra visits, and even potentially jail time. 

Virginia Child Custody Attorneys at Manassas Law Group

At the Manassas Law Group in Virginia, our team of attorneys has legal experience in all aspects of law. This includes areas of family law and child custody orders. With our decades of combined experience, we are able to bring practical solutions to all kinds of family disputes. Our goal is to work towards an amicable agreement between both parties. One that is not only in our clients’ best interest, but in the best interests of their children. Of course, not all cases can resolve through such agreements. When our client’s visitation or other rights require it, we take an aggressive approach to argue before a judge.

If you feel your child custody order has been violated, or if you have any further questions at all, we encourage you to speak with a qualified Manassas family law attorney as soon as possible. Contact the Manassas Law Group by calling 703-361-8246 or fill out our online intake form today.

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