When a married couple decides to divorce and there are children involved, it can sow the seeds for acrimony. In a best-case scenario, the parents will look beyond the lingering issues they might have with each other and put the child’s interests and well-being on the front burner. Unfortunately, disputes still arise and the child might be caught in the middle. One problematic aspect of a child custody and parenting time case is if one parent hinders the other parent’s ability to see and spend time with the child. This is known as interference with custody. Interference with parenting time also falls into this category. It is imperative to understand how to address this complicated situation without it getting progressively worse.
What does the law say about interference with custody?
While parents might think that keeping the child from the other parent is simply an extension of the family law case, they should be aware that it can be considered a crime under New Jersey law. The following will be regarded as interference:
- If the child is detained or concealed to deprive a parent of their rightful time.
- If they have been served with a process of a custody action before a temporary or final order is made and the child is taken or concealed to deprive the other parent of parenting time or custody
- If there has been a temporary or final order regarding custody or parenting time, it is not adhered to. Depending on the circumstances, this can be a crime of the second, third or fourth degree.
Remedies to address violations with custody and parenting time
The state has remedies that it will put in action if there is interference. The aggrieved parent can receive compensatory time with the child. Perhaps more time than would usually be granted over the summer vacation would be compensation for the lost time. There can be financial penalties not just in a monetary award but payments for a parent who missed work because of the dispute, paying for child care and more. Together, parents can alter the arrangement of bringing the child back and forth. The parents might need to take part in counseling to try and find better ways to solve their disagreements. When necessary, both parties could modify the entire agreement. Or, in cases where there is an arrest, the parent can be held in contempt, fined and even incarcerated.
Help is available
There are, of course some cases in which one parent tries to abscond with the child or there are other concerns that have arisen such as allegations of abuse and there is a legitimate attempt to protect the child. However, this may be a case in which the parents are not getting along or disagree with the child custody and parenting time agreement and are trying to facilitate change. Doing so by interfering with custody and parenting time is an inadvisable way to go about it.
These emotional aspects of a family law case can be challenging to navigate. It is always preferable to try and come to an amicable agreement without lobbing accusations back and forth or outright denying a parent their appropriate time with the child. For these cases, there are options available such as tweaking the agreement to better suit the parents, discussing it with a neutral third party or going to court to try and change it. When there is custody and parenting time interference, regardless of the reason, it is helpful to have assistance to try and forge a workable solution without it getting worse than it already is.