Monday, February 5, 2024

How to Handle a Violation of Child Custody Order: Seeking Contempt Hearing


Child custody orders are legal agreements established by the court and expected to be followed by both parents. These orders are essential in protecting the child's best interests and ensuring they maintain a healthy relationship with each parent. However, violations of child custody orders do occur, and they can negatively impact the child's life and that of the custodial parent. When traditional remedies fail to resolve a violation, a contempt hearing may be necessary. This article will cover what constitutes a violation of a child custody order, steps to take when seeking a contempt hearing, and the potential outcomes.

What is a violation of a child custody order?

A violation of a child custody order occurs when one parent fails to comply with the terms of the agreement set out by the court. Violations can take many forms, including:
  • Failing to arrive at the agreed-upon location to exchange the child
  • Denying visitation rights or access to the child without legitimate reason
  • Visiting or making contact with the child outside the designated times or locations
  • Removing the child from the state or country without the custodial parent's permission
Under such circumstances, the aggrieved party can take legal action to enforce the agreement and protect both their interests and the child's best interests.

Steps to take when seeking contempt hearing

When traditional remedies, such as communication and mediation, fail to resolve a violation, the next step is usually to seek a contempt hearing. Here are the steps you should consider when seeking a contempt hearing.

Document the Violation

The success of a contempt hearing largely depends on the evidence presented by the aggrieved party. It is essential to document all violation instances that have occurred and produce them as evidence in court. Gathering evidence may include:
  • Saving text messages or emails between you and your co-parent discussing the agreement's terms
  • Record visitation times and any missed visits
  • Preserve voicemails or record phone conversations if you suspect your co-parent may deny access to the child
  • Gather any witness accounts from people present during a violation

Filing a motion for contempt

Once you have gathered substantial evidence, the next step is to file a motion for contempt with the same court that issued the original child custody order. Your motion should outline the specifics of the violation, citing dates, times, and locations where the custody order was breached. Ensure that all details are included in the motion to give the court a complete picture of the situation.

Attend a hearing

If the court accepts your motion, it will set a hearing date. During the hearing, you will have the chance to present your evidence and explain how the violation impacts the child's welfare. It is best to engage a qualified family attorney to help you prepare your arguments and evidence to increase your chances of getting a favorable outcome.

Potential outcomes of contempt hearing

The court's decision on contempt hearing varies depending on the severity of the violation and the underlying circumstances. The possible outcomes include:

Makeup parenting time

If the violation is minor, the non-compliant parent may be ordered to make up for missed visits or granted additional parenting time to compensate for time lost.

Monetary Penalties

Another possible outcome is that the court may issue monetary penalties on the non-compliant parent. This can include fees to compensate for legal fees or financial losses incurred due to the violation.

Attendance to Parenting Classes

The non-compliant parent may also be mandated to attend parenting classes, individually or co-parenting classes, to educate them about the importance of adhering to the child custody order.


In severe cases, the court may determine that incarceration is necessary to punish the violating parent. However, this is rare and may only occur if there is evidence of repeated and willful violations.


A violation of a child custody order can be distressing for both the custodial parent and the child. If traditional remedies, such as communication and mediation, fail to resolve the issue, a contempt hearing may be necessary. It involves documenting the violations, filing a motion for contempt, and attending a hearing. The possible outcome of a contempt hearing includes makeup parenting time, monetary penalties, attendance to parenting classes, and in rare cases, incarceration. Seeking legal counsel from a qualified family attorney can increase your chances of getting a favorable outcome during the contempt hearing. To learn more about how to handle a violation of child custody order, visit De Novo Law Firm.