New Jersey Visitation/Parenting Time Violations – Possible Sanctions

When a parent consistently violates an established parenting time order there are numerous remedies that a New Jersey court can order to sanction the violator.

New Jersey Court Rule 5:3-7(a) Additional Remedies on Violation of Orders Relating To Parenting Time, Alimony, Support or Domestic Violence Restraining Orders

Rule 5:3-7(a) lists numerous sanctions which the court can impose on a parent who violates a custody or parenting time order. The possible sanctions include: compensatory time with the children; economic sanctions for costs incurred by the non-violator parent due to the other parent’s custody or parenting time violation; modification of the existing transportation (pick up/drop off arrangements) – including changing the exchange location to a public place; ordering counseling for either or both of the parties and/or the children at the expense of the violator; ordering a temporary or permanent modification of the parenting time and custodial arrangement if under the circumstances this relief is in the best interests of the children; ordering the violator to participate in a community service program; incarceration of the violator with or without work-release; issuance of a warrant to be executed if the violator persists in failing to comply with court orders; any other appropriate equitable remedy.

N.J.S.A. 2C:13-4(a) Interference with Custody (including parenting time)

If a parent takes or detains a child with the purpose or intent of concealing him or her from the other parent, and with the intent to deprive the other parent of custody or parenting time, the violator’s actions can be reported to the police as a crime under N.J.S.A. 2C:13-4(a). It should be noted that while, on its face, this statute seems to give a non-violating parent a powerful tool to hammer the violating parent with the full weight and authority of the criminal justice system, in reality a number of police forces are hesitant to get involved in family matters. While some police officers may get fully involved. others view interference with custody or parenting time as a non-priority, non-police matter, and will direct the complaining parent to file an action in Family Court.

Sanctions are Generally Reserved for Repeated Violations

It should also be noted that most courts only punish parents who persistently and willfully violate parenting time and custody orders. If a parent cannot comply with parenting time arrangements, despite their good faith efforts to do so, or if they are inadvertently late for a pickup or drop off, it would not be wise to immediately seek court sanctions under either the family law or criminal law statutes. Use of the statute sections is really for the situation where a parent is repeatedly, defiantly violating a court order. To properly prepare to bring an action in court under either of the previously listed statute sections the parent who’s parenting time is being consistently violated should keep a journal and a written record of the dates and times of the parenting time/custody violations. The journal should also document the non-violators attempts to communicate with the violator, via telephone, text or email (texts and e-mails are ideal as they are a written record of communications). This record will form the basis for the non-violator’s certification to the court explaining the nature of the violations and the need for sanctions.

If you have questions about how to deal with a situation where a parent is repeatedly violating the custody or parenting time arrangement, or if you have any other questions regarding family law related issues, do not hesitate to contact me at 201-731-3086 (toll-free at 844-431-3380), or via email using the contact form. I have been representing clients in northern New Jersey, including: Bergen, Passaic, Hudson, Essex, Union and Middlesex counties for over 20 years. Your initial consultation with me is free of charge.