The holidays can be very frustrating times for both spouses when undergoing divorce proceedings that involve custody issues with children and one spouse acts in bad faith or arbitrarily. If a spouse violates a temporary custody order, he or she may not face consequences at the time but must explain their actions to a district judge in the future.
If a temporary custody order describes in detail the periods of possession during the Christmas holiday, the order is binding on both spouses. The temporary custody order is binding civilly and NOT criminally per se. This is an important distinction to understand before you decide to call the police. Family law matters, with notable exceptions such as domestic violence and protective orders, are generally governed in civil and not criminal courts. Because temporary custody orders involving children are governed by civil courts, a police officer has no immediate basis to enforce the civil order.
If your spouse refuses to release your child to you at the prescribed time mandated in the temporary custody order, there are certain things that you should do to insure this wrongful conduct properly is documented for future civil contempt proceedings.
- Call the police!!! Many police departments will not respond because temporary custody orders are not criminally enforceable, but if the police department decides to respond then you may request a police report to be filed noting that your spouse deliberately violated the temporary custody order. This may be used in Court to persuade the judge to hold your spouse in civil contempt or validate your properly made demand for access in accordance with your temporary order.
- Save and preserve any text messages, emails, letters, or recorded phone calls that demonstrate and reaffirm your spouse’s refusal to deliver your children into your custody during the holiday or other allotted time in your visitation order.
- Call your attorney and notify him of your spouse’s refusal to deliver the children to you.
- Do not be tricked or cohered into a physical confrontation with your soon to be ex-spouse!!!
By completing these four tasks you will be gathering and preserving evidence to hold your spouse in civil contempt of Court. After the Christmas Holiday season or other access periods are over, your lawyer with your consent will file a motion to hold your spouse in contempt of Court for violation of the temporary custody order. If your spouse is found in civil contempt of Court, he or she may be fined, ordered to jail for up to 180 days until the fine and attorney fees are paid, and the violation may be a solid basis to favourably modify the previous temporary custody orders. Such rulings are at the judge’s discretion.
Though you may feel helpless at the time, justice may be achieved through the District Courts in the form of civil or contempt sanctions. Judges usually look down on a spouse that blatantly violates temporary custody orders especially during Christmas or other special holidays. Just relax and be patience if your spouse refuses to deliver the children to you and document the conduct. Justice may take time but in the end, it is usually affirmed.
The Nacol Law Firm P.C.
8144 Walnut Hill Lane
Dallas, Texas 75231