When a North Carolina court enters a child custody order, each parent is required to follow the terms of the order. Most parents understand that violating the basic custody and visitation requirements could get them into trouble.
For example, there may be serious consequences if one parent refuses to return the child at the end of their visitation. This is a rare situation, though, and it is often the provisions that are considered less important that parents ignore or forget about.
What is in a Custody Order?
Custody orders almost always include more than a custody and visitation schedule. They often include terms involving communication between parents, communication with the children, and where exchanges will take place.
Regardless of how important a custody order requirement may seem, each provision in the order must be followed. There are exceptions, but in the absence of an emergency, failing to adhere to the terms of a custody order can lead to being held in contempt.
Blanchard v. Blanchard
In the case of Blanchard v. Blanchard out of Mecklenburg County, the father was held in contempt for violating a custody order. The order was entered in 2015, granting primary physical custody to the mother with set visitation to the father.
Also included in the custody order was a provision that required the parent with custody of the children to allow the other parent to talk to the children for 15 minutes each night via telephone or FaceTime.
In 2019, the mother filed a motion for contempt, alleging that the father had violated this communication provision. An Order to Show Cause was entered, and a hearing was set, at which point the father filed a motion to dismiss. The trial court denied the father’s motion to dismiss, and in April 2019, the father was found in civil contempt. He appealed this decision.
In his appeal, the father argued that his constitutional due process rights were violated because he did not know whether the mother’s motion for contempt was criminal or civil. This argument was dismissed by the Court of Appeals.
The father also stated that he was in compliance with the custody order, but the Court decided that there were sufficient findings of fact to suggest otherwise. The trial court had found that the father blocked the mother on his phone, more than 60 FaceTime calls were ignored, and the father turned off the children’s iPad every evening they were with him.
The Court of Appeals ultimately affirmed the lower court’s decision to hold the father in contempt.
The terms of a custody order are valid unless a court amends the order or both parties agree on the changes. If you have questions about the provisions of a custody order or would like to speak with someone about a violation, contact the Greensboro divorce attorneys at Woodruff Family Law Group.