Withholding visitation without a court order is a big deal.
It was Taylor’s weekend with the kids, and Taylor was excited about it! When Taylor arrived at Morgan’s house, Morgan wouldn’t let Taylor inside and explained that they weren’t going to see the kids for the foreseeable future. Taylor was crushed and at a loss, so Taylor hired Alexander & Ewert LLC, Attorneys at Law. We knew that Morgan’s decision violated the visitation schedule, which can have some heavy consequences. In this post, we want to discuss Morgan’s mistake, and all that you risk when you withhold visitation without a court order.
Generally, Colorado courts uphold the belief that all parents are entitled to time with their children, except for when the safety of the child is at risk.
Withholding Visitation often leads to a Court Hearing
The parent who is being denied their custody or visitation will likely file a motion to enforce parenting time (C.R.S. 14-10-129.5). Within 35 days of this, the court will set a hearing date to determine whether the filing parent’s complaints are genuine. At that point, the court will determine the appropriate punishment for the parent that denied visitation, which could be any of the following:
- Adding additional terms to the visitation agreement, or modifying the schedules if that works better for both parents (which doesn’t apply in our scenario with Taylor and Morgan, but this often happens in more benign cases where agreements simply need to be adjusted due to life changes of the parents).
- The court may require one or both parents to attend parental education classes, which is to be paid for by the non-complying parent
- The court may require both parents to seek family-based counseling, which is to be paid for by the non-complying parent
- The violating parent may be required to post bond to ensure future compliance
- The filing parent may be granted custody for the amount of time equal to the amount that was withheld from them
- The violating parent can be held in contempt of the court and fined
- Jail time
Courts often try to match the punishment to the severity of the withholding.
When Withholding Visitation Becomes Parental Kidnapping
We have also seen cases a non-custodial parent may try to take custody of the children outside of a visitation schedule for an extended period or may try to take them out of the state/country to avoid losing the child. This is considered Parental Kidnapping- and it is a class 4 or class 5 felony, depending on the severity of the kidnapping.
For withholding custody to be considered Parental Kidnapping, courts look at the following information:
How long the child is missing from the custody of the rightful parent
If the child is brought outside the state or country in violation of the custody agreement
If the apparent kidnapper expressed intention to not return the child
Whether the custodial parent knew where the child was
Obviously, parental kidnapping is a very serious crime. The minimum punishment for Parental Kidnapping is 1-3 years in prison, or a minimum of $1000 dollars in fines, but the punishment can be as high as six years in prison, or $100,000 in fines.
What if I believe my child isn’t safe in the custody of their other parent?
If you believe that your child is not safe in the custody of their other parent, either due to danger directly from the other parent, or danger from the living environment of the other parent, it is best to consult your lawyer directly (click here to give us a call). At this point, custody agreements must be revisited, and additional legal action may need to be taken to ensure the safety of you and your child.
We understand that many parents don’t want to miss out on any time with their children, but we cannot overstate that it is a terrible idea to unlawfully withhold custody from the other parent, as it can lead to severe consequences. If you have any questions about divorce, custody, and your current options, and your rights during your divorce, please do not hesitate to give us a call. At Alexander & Ewert LLC, Attorney’s at Law, we are ready to help.