When Can the Police Help You in a Child Custody Dispute?

Child custody disputes can be stressful and emotional for both parents and children.

Sometimes, one parent may violate the custody or visitation order, or refuse to cooperate with the other parent.

In such cases, can the police get involved and help enforce the order?

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The answer depends on several factors, such as the type of order, the jurisdiction, and the circumstances of the situation.

Types of Custody Orders

There are two main types of custody orders: court orders and agreements.

A court order is a legally binding document that is issued by a judge after a hearing or a trial.

It specifies the rights and responsibilities of each parent regarding the child’s physical and legal custody, visitation, support, and other issues.

An agreement is a written or verbal contract that is made by the parents without involving the court.

It may also cover the same issues as a court order, but it is not legally enforceable unless it is approved by a judge and turned into a court order.

Without a court order, the police or the courts cannot intervene in a custody dispute, unless there is an immediate danger to the child.

Police Involvement in Court Orders

If there is a court order in place, and one parent violates it or denies the other parent’s visitation rights, the aggrieved parent can call the police and ask for their assistance.

However, the police may not always be able or willing to help, depending on the jurisdiction and the situation.

According to Police Magazine, many jurisdictions do not have the authority or the resources to enforce civil orders of custody.

The police may try to defuse the situation and persuade the violating parent to comply, but they cannot arrest them or take the child away without a warrant or a court order.

They may also advise the aggrieved parent to file a report or a complaint with the court, and seek legal remedies.

Some jurisdictions, however, have specific laws or policies that allow the police to intervene more actively in custody disputes.

For example, in Utah, a parent who interferes with the other parent’s custody rights can be charged with a misdemeanor.

The police can arrest the violating parent and return the child to the rightful custodian, if there is a court order and a reasonable belief that the interference has occurred.

Police Involvement in Agreements

If there is no court order, but only an agreement between the parents, the police have no authority to enforce it or to get involved in the custody dispute, unless there is a threat to the child’s safety or well-being.

For instance one parent fears that the other parent may harm or abduct the child, they can call the police and report the situation.

The police may conduct a welfare check, or take the child into protective custody.

However, if there is no such risk, and the dispute is only about the custody or visitation schedule.

They may try to mediate or facilitate the communication between the parents.

The police may also suggest that the parents seek legal advice or counseling, or file a petition with the court to obtain a court order.

Reasons For Child Custody Disputes?

Infographic for Reasons For Child Custody Disputes?
Reasons For Child Custody Disputes?
Infographic for Reasons For Child Custody Disputes?
7 Reasons For Child Custody Disputes?

Divorce or separation

When parents end their relationship, they may have different ideas about how to raise their child and share custody.

Substance abuse

If one parent has a problem with drugs or alcohol, the other parent may be worried.

Domestic violence

If one parent has been abusive or violent towards the other parent or the child, He may seek custody.


If one parent wants to move to a different location, this may affect the child’s relationship with the other parent.

Parental alienation

If one parent tries to turn the child against the other parent by bad-mouthing, lying, or manipulating them.

Child’s best interest

If parents have different opinions about what is best for the child’s well-being.

Paternity issues

If the father of the child is not legally established, he may seek custody.

These are some of the top reasons why custody disputes arise, but each case is unique and may involve multiple factors.

If you are facing a custody dispute, you should consult a lawyer and seek legal advice.


The police can get involved in child custody disputes, but their role and authority.

Therefore, parents who are involved in a custody dispute should always consult a lawyer and obtain a court order.

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