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Abiding By Child Custody Court Orders

Do Florida Laws Need to Change When it Comes to Child Custody?

According to a recent article in the Tampa Bay Times, current child custody laws in Florida may need to be revised. What’s the problem? In short, parents aren’t always sticking to the custody orders put in place by a judge, and there’s not a lot being done to address the issue.

For example, one mother in South Florida hasn’t been able to see her son as frequently as a judge ordered. After going through a contentious divorce and heated child custody battle with her ex-husband, the court ordered that she would have primary custody of her son, and that his father would see him every other Wednesday, every other weekend, and for an extended period during his summer vacation.

However, her ex-husband hasn’t abided by this order. Indeed, the mother has only seen her son once since last March. Why? The reason is simple: “the father refuses to return the 10-year-old boy to his mother—as the court ordered.” The father has ignored the custody agreement put into place by the court. And this isn’t the first time it happened. When the ex-spouses first began sharing custody of their child, the father “repeatedly kept his son beyond the prescribed periods.” The mother tried to do something about it. She took the father before the local magistrate, but according to the mother, the father “only got a slap on the wrist.” To be sure, a number of magistrates and judges “tend to tell disobeying parents to play nice instead of putting the fear of God into them.”

But isn’t there a law that prevents a parent from violating a custody order? In short, Florida family law “doesn’t call for an immediate penalty when a parent doesn’t adhere” to a custody order. What can the primary custodian do in these situations? In the case we just described, the mother could seek to change the custody order in court, but she could be waiting a long time—months, at least, and possible longer.

Since the father in this scenario has been able to violate the custody order without experiencing immediate repercussions, the burden has fallen unfairly onto the mother. She has sought emergency orders from the court, and she has spent a significant amount of time and money trying to have the time with her son that a court already granted to her.

Custody Laws: What Could Change?

The current problem with child custody orders and parental violations has become an increasingly hot topic in Florida. In response to selfish behavior from parents who won’t respect court orders (and who likely aren’t putting the best interests of the child first), advocates have suggested changing the laws surrounding custody orders and violations. Some proposals include the following:

· Allowing Parenting Coordinators to give binding orders on custody: parents may be more likely to abide by orders given by a Parenting Coordinator (with whom they’ve had close contact) rather than a judge or magistrate.

· Making custody order violations a misdemeanor offense: if parents were subject to criminal charges and fines, they’d be less likely to violate a custody order.

· Creating family law enforcement officers: if a special team of officers were dedicated to enforcing custody orders, fewer parents would be able to violate the orders for an extended period. In addition, this option would also alleviate the burden on family court judges.

Our experienced Fort Lauderdale family law attorney can help with your child custody matter. Contact the Fort Lauderdale and Hollywood Law Offices of Steven A. Mason, P.A. for legal advice at 954-963-5900 or leave a message online.

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