By Daniel Exner
Unfortunately, enforcement of a divorce decree sometimes depends on the attitude of your local law enforcement.
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 conduct is typically executable through the police. For example, orders to arrest, seize property, or for injunctions, depend on law enforcement agencies to be effective. Orders for parenting time carry the same court authority and therefore are technically enforceable by the police.
There is, however, a disconnect between theory and practice. In many cases, police officers might be unwilling to get involved in a family law dispute unless the conduct rises to a criminal infraction (i.e. child abuse or parental kidnapping).
The police may tell you to take it up with the court. If an officer is willing to help, he may call the opposing party and demand compliance or escort you to pick up the children.
If the police are unwilling to get involved, you can always file a Motion to Enforce with the court. A Motion to Enforce tells the court that the opposing party has failed to comply with the child custody order and is unreasonably denying you visitation
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Motions to Enforce are conceptually similar to Contempt Motions except they must be heard within 30 days by law, at least where I practice. At an enforcement hearing, you can ask the court to:
1) reaffirm the placement schedule;
2) award you make-up days for the lost parenting time; and
3) order the opposing party to pay your attorney fees and/or court costs.