It is not uncommon for divorced parents to not get along when they raise their children. After all, the factors that led to their divorce are likely to remain. Many New Jersey parents, yourself included, might not love the idea of sending the children to the other parent for visitation.
Perhaps you have other important reasons to restrict your children from seeing your ex-spouse, as well. You may wonder if the law entitles you to withhold visitation without getting permission from the court, and if you face any penalties for doing so.
Violating a court order
Child custody and visitation are orders made by the court. Therefore, there may be serious consequences for violating a court order. First, you may want to consider your reasons for keeping the children from the other parent.
- Is he or she not paying child support, and you believe withholding visitation will provide an incentive to pay or serve as punishment for not paying?
- Do you have disagreements on such parenting views as bedtime, discipline and homework?
- Does the thought of seeing your ex even briefly fill you with anxiety?
These reasons are understandable, but the courts are not likely to see your point of view. The other parent has a legal right to have a relationship with the children, and the court may hold you in contempt for keeping the children from him or her.
Seeking protection for your children
On the other hand, you may have valid fears for your children’s safety when they spend time with the other parent. Perhaps your children have told you they are being physically or sexually abused during visitation. Your ex may have a substance dependency problem or an unsafe situation in the home, such as unsecured, loaded firearms being within reach. You may have discovered your ex leaves them home alone all weekend without food.
In a dangerous situation, you may decide to keep your children with you. However, you will need to immediately inform the courts, and possibly law enforcement, about the problem. You may be able to have the custody arrangement modified, or the court may require your ex to provide a safe environment for the children before allowing him or her to have visitation again.