This is the next post in a series of articles discussing ways in which Las Vegas parents can manage child visitation disputes related to the COVID-19 pandemic. My previous post focused on the need for flexibility and reasonableness between co-parents as they navigate the scheduling changes, illness, or other issues causing visitation changes. The ability to work together to resolve issues before they turn into disagreements can help parents avoid nasty arguments and preclude the need for legal action. Not all disputes can be amicably resolved between the parties. In this post, I will address the need to avoid engaging in self-help when a serious visitation disagreement arises. If you need assistance with a custody or visitation matter, contact my office today to speak with a lawyer.
It is not uncommon for parents who share custody of a child to disagree from time to time about matters related to visitation. As previously discussed, minor scheduling changes can often be accommodated when parents are reasonably flexible. When a serious dispute occurs that cannot be resolved, a parent may need to involve the Clark County Family Court to enforce or modify the existing visitation order. Parents should not take matters into their own hands and simply ignore an existing order. For instance, a mother and father disagree about the father’s active social life during the pandemic. She and her children have continuously followed stay-at-home orders, wear masks, and have been isolated from friends and family for months. He, on the other hand, goes to work, restaurants, and gets together with friends regularly. She believes that her children may be at risk of exposure if they visit the father so she refuses to allow visitation for two months. Her actions are in violation of their court-ordered visitation schedule. While it is understandable that she wants to protect her children, it is important to go through the legal process rather than engage in self-help. If a true emergency exists and a child may be in danger, it is possible to seek an expedited modification of a custody order. What the Judge considers to be an emergency may differ from your opinion and will depend upon the specific facts. It is important to review your options with an attorney in advance to understand how the Court may view your case.
Engaging in self-help can have a negative impact on your parental rights. Even if a parent believes they are justified in their decision to take matters into their own hands, the Court may disagree. Judges do not look favorably upon individuals who violate existing orders. Serious violations may result in contempt of court charges. Furthermore, if a parent withholds a child from their co-parent, the Court will likely view such conduct as a frustration of the other parent’s relationship with the child. If so, this may give the other party a basis to request a modification of the custody order to expand their visitation time. In our example above, the mother who believed she was protecting her children by keeping them from the father may have given him grounds to modify their arrangement and increase his custody rights. By discussing your situation with counsel and going through the appropriate process, and not taking matters into your own hands, you help to ensure that such an outcome does not occur.
While attempting to solve the problem oneself may seem like the only option, doing so may result in serious negative consequences. It is strongly recommended that you contact an attorney as soon as possible to assist you with enforcing your legal rights instead of taking matters into your own hands. Your lawyer will also advise you on seeking permanent custody changes as needed. My office is dedicated to assisting Las Vegas families with custody, visitation, and divorce matters. If you need assistance, contact us today.