Will Police Enforce Child Custody? | Legal Advice from Family Law Attorneys

Will Police Enforce Child Custody?

Child custody is a legal term that refers to the rights and responsibilities of parents who have been divorced or separated to care for and make decisions for their children.

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Divorce lawyer from a court | PEOPLE

A child custody order is a court document that specifies how the parents will share these rights and responsibilities, such as who will have physical custody (where the child will live), who will have legal custody (who can make decisions for the child), and what visitation rights the non-custodial parent will have.

However, sometimes one parent may violate the terms of the child custody order, such as by refusing to let the other parent see the child, taking the child without permission, or trying to alienate the child from the other parent.

In such cases, the parent who is being denied their rights may wonder if they can call the police to enforce the child custody order.

The answer to this question depends on several factors, such as the type and severity of the violation, the jurisdiction where the order was issued, and the availability of other legal remedies.


Police Involvement in Child Custody Situations

In general, there are two ways to enforce a child custody or visitation order: with police intervention or through the court with a motion to enforce.

A court order that mandates or prohibits certain conduct is typically executable through the police, who have the authority to arrest or detain anyone who breaks the law.

However, not all child custody orders are clear enough or specific enough to allow for police enforcement.

For example, if the order states that the parents must cooperate in making decisions for the child, or that the visitation schedule is flexible and subject to change, then the police may not be able to intervene in a dispute over these issues.

On the other hand, if the order states that one parent must drop off or pick up the child at a certain time and place, or that one parent is not allowed to take the child out of state without permission, then these are more concrete and measurable terms that can be enforced by the police.

For example, if one parent fails to show up for a scheduled visitation, or takes the child without informing the other parent, then the police can be called to locate and return the child, or to arrest or cite the violating parent for contempt of court.

However, even if the order is enforceable by the police, there may be some practical limitations or challenges in involving them in child custody situations.

For instance, some police departments may be reluctant or unable to get involved in civil disputes, unless there is a risk of physical harm or violence.

They may also have limited resources or higher priorities than dealing with child custody issues.

Moreover, some police officers may not be familiar with family law or how to handle child custody cases.

They may also have different interpretations of what constitutes a violation of the order, or what actions they are


Police Involvement in Child Custody Situations (continued)

Therefore, before calling the police to enforce a child custody order, it is advisable to consult with a family law attorney who can advise on the best course of action, and to have a copy of the order handy to show to the police.

It is also important to keep a record of any violations of the order, such as dates, times, locations, and witnesses, as this can be used as evidence in court if needed.


Court Intervention in Child Custody Situations

Another way to enforce a child custody order is to file a motion to enforce with the court that issued the order.

A motion to enforce is a legal document that asks the judge to hold the violating parent in contempt of court for disobeying the order, and to impose appropriate sanctions or remedies.

Some of the possible sanctions or remedies that a judge can order include:

Ordering the violating parent to pay a fine or serve jail time for contempt of court

Ordering the violating parent to pay the attorney fees and costs of the other parent

Ordering the violating parent to attend counseling or parenting classes

Modifying or clarifying the child custody order to prevent future violations

Granting additional visitation time or compensatory time to the other parent

Changing the primary physical custody of the child to the other parent

Restraining or limiting the contact of the violating parent with the child

Issuing a warrant for the arrest of the violating parent if they fail to appear in court

To file a motion to enforce, one must follow the rules and procedures of the court, and provide sufficient evidence and arguments to support their claim.

A family law attorney can help with preparing and filing the motion, and representing one in court.



Child custody orders are legally binding documents that must be followed by both parents.

However, if one parent violates the order, there are two ways to enforce it: with police intervention or through court intervention.

Each option has its advantages and disadvantages, depending on the circumstances of the case.

Therefore, it is advisable to consult with a family law attorney before taking any action, and to keep a record of any violations of the order.

By doing so, one can protect their rights and interests, and ensure the best outcome for their child.

What are some common violations of child custody orders?

Some common violations of child custody orders are:

Keeping the child for a longer visit than agreed upon or failing to tell the other parent about the child’s whereabouts³.

Taking the child on vacation without prior approval, taking the child out of state, or allowing an unauthorized person to take care of the child.

Bashing the other parent in front of the child, or not allowing the child to talk on the phone to the other parent⁴.

Trying to alienate the child from the other parent, or not abiding by express terms of the custody order.

These violations can have serious consequences for both the parent and the child, such as legal sanctions, loss of custody rights, or emotional distress.

Therefore, it is important for parents to follow the custody order and to communicate with each other in a respectful and cooperative manner.

If a parent believes that the other parent is violating the custody order, they should consult with a family law attorney who can advise them on how to enforce the order or modify it if necessary.


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