Child custody disputes get pretty heated during the holidays. For whatever reason, the holidays bring out the worst in some with respect to the kids.
Many times one of the parties will try to change up the parenting plan and holiday time-sharing without the agreement of the other party. Other times, one or both parties may simply let it be known that plans have been made that do not reflect the terms of the parenting plan filed with the court.
These violations are very serious for both parties. The courts do not look kindly on misbehavior during the holidays. This is so because these conflicts are very hard and often traumatizing on the children. Keeping in mind that the standard is the “best interests of the child” and this standard is taken very seriously by the court, there can be significant consequences for the parent who breaches the agreement.
If you are in this situation, you should seek the assistance of an experienced divorce and family law attorney immediately. Time runs short during the holidays and it is very difficult to get a quick hearing. Do not delay. The Albuquerque attorneys at Collins & Collins, P.C. can be reached at (505) 242-5958.
Consequences for Violation of Child Custody During the Holidays
The possible consequences for violating a parenting plan during the holidays are really no different than violation at any other time of year. The difference being is that the judges are particularly vigilant in the protection of the children during the holidays due to the potential for emotional harm to the children.
The consequences for violation of the parenting plan include findings of contempt, custodial interference, loss of time-sharing moving forward, and supervised visitation to name just a few.
Contempt of Court for Violating Court Ordered Parenting Plan
Any time you violate a court order of any kind, there is the possibility of a finding of contempt. Contempt of court is extremely serious and can result in jail time, fines, modification of existing time-sharing, and so on.
Contempt of court is a civil finding in family law court but it is akin to a criminal penalty in that it can result in jail time. The jail time can in fact be indefinite until the contempt is cured. In other words, you can be in jail until you make things right.
In addition to the jail time, the judge can order fines and attorney fees for contempt of court. This can get exceedingly expensive.
Child custody disputes are often heated. The judges recognize this. The use of contempt holdings is relatively rare for the most part. However, the holidays are one time of year where a holding of contempt is more likely.
Again, this is because of the potential harm to the children. In addition, breaches of the parenting plan during the holidays are often malicious and done with the very purpose of emotional harm to the other party.
Custodial interference charges are possible but relatively rare in these cases. Custodial interference is a felony, so it is perhaps unwise to flirt with possible custodial interference charges.
Custodial interference requires:
“Unlawful interference with custody consists of any person, not having a right to custody, maliciously taking, detaining, concealing or enticing away or failing to return any child with the intent to detain or conceal permanently or for a protracted time that child from any person having a right to custody of that child.”
The key language is “conceal permanently or for a protracted time.” Interference with holiday time-sharing will likely not meet this requirement. It falls upon the investigating crimes against children officer to determine what constitutes a “protracted time” and whether to bring charges.
The statute does indicate that that “a felony charge brought under this section may be dismissed if the person voluntarily returns the child within fourteen days…”
Thus it would seem that 14 days may be the threshold. However, the language does indicate that the charges “may be dismissed” meaning that an officer could pursue the charges even if the child is returned within the 14-day period.
Play Nice During the Holidays – The Risks are High
It is exceedingly risky to misbehave during the holidays with respect to the other parent’s rights to time-sharing with the children. The consequences are many and potentially severe.
If you find yourself in a situation like this, seek legal guidance immediately from an experienced child custody attorney. Time as you might expect is of the essence since the holiday season is so short. Immediate legal action is essential for the protection of your rights and, more importantly, the welfare of the children.