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How to Get the Courts to Enforce a Custody Order
Getting the Courts to enforce a Custody Order can be confusing and tricky. Without the right help, you could file the wrong thing or get so frustrated and not file at all. I feel you. First off, I am so sorry that you have to do this. If you are filing this, something has not been working out the way things were agreed upon. Most of the time, it is something incredibly bad. I will help you get started in enforcing a Custody Order and hopefully things will get better soon.
Before Starting the Enforcement
I understand you might be very upset and/or angry at the other person for breaking the order. You have every right to feel that way. Before I continue though, I want to say, do NOT act with your feelings during this process. I know it is so easy to. Try your hardest not to. Go into this with a clear head and logical thinking. You've entered a battlefield that can go either good or bad. Sometimes, enforcing a custody order can lead to another court hearing. You cannot do anything that can be used against you in court. Try to keep a level head during all of this. Cry when you aren't dealing with it. Seek support of family and friends. Go out sometimes and get your mind off of it.
jurisdiction: The official power to make legal decisions and judgments.
Don't know which State has jurisdiction?
- What county is the custody order through? That county/state has jurisdiction.
- Where was the child in question born? That state probably has jurisdiction.
- Has the child lived somewhere else for 6 months or more? That state COULD have jurisdiction.
- If you aren't sure who has jurisdiction, contact a legal helpline or your lawyer.
initial Consultation with Lawyer
Before you file the paperwork to enforce the Custody Order, first you should consult with your lawyer (if you have one). If not you have two options. You can either hire one or, if you are a low income family, get a court appointed one.
- What if I can get one on my own or I have a lawyer already?
If you can get one on your own, great! Hire one and if they choose to take your case, explain to them what is going on. Don't leave anything out. Your lawyer will advise what to do next. I would like to take this time to remind all of you that your lawyer works for you. While they know a lot about what is going on, you are the person who can make the ultimate decision. I have had a lawyer in the past who walked all over me and acted like she ruled the roost, well, you do. You are paying them.
- What if I have to get a court appointed lawyer?
If you have to get a court appointed lawyer, you unfortunately have to wait until there is a hearing in place to get one. No worries though, there are legal help lines that can get you started. These phone numbers are different depending on the state you live in so the best way to find out is to contact the courthouse in your area. Please note, if you live in one state but jurisdiction is in another, call the helpline that has jurisdiction over your custody order.
Acquiring the Forms to Enforce the Order
The easiest way to acquire the paperwork you need to get this started is by going directly to the courthouse in the county of jurisdiction and talking to the court clerk. While you are there, you can even get help filing the paperwork.
If you don't have the time or don't have means to get to the courthouse (either no car or across the country) you can follow these steps to acquire the forms.
- Call the courthouse in the county of jurisdiction and explain what happened (please keep in mind they cannot give you legal advice).
- Ask them what you need to do to enforce a custody order.
- Write down the paperwork you need on a piece of paper.
- Ask if you can find the paperwork online! (If you don't have an internet connection, skip this step and do the next step.)
- If you can't find it online, request they fax or mail you the forms.
- Remember to thank them! We all understand your frustration but don't forget what your mama taught you about manners!
Notary: A person who has legal training and has been licensed by the state to perform acts in legal affairs. This person mainly witnesses signatures on documents.
Filing the Paperwork
Because of the complexity and the wide range of paperwork per state, I cannot show you how to fill out the paperwork. If you need help, please contact your lawyer or courthouse if you need help.
After you have filled out your paperwork, now it's time to file it. In order to file, you probably need to get the paperwork notarized. All banks have a notary and will notarize your paperwork for free (if you have a bank account with them.) If that is not an option, UPS, insurance agencies, and law firms will also notarize your paperwork for you (for a fee). If you need help finding a place to notarize your document, check out this link to find a notary near you.
Now that you have the document notarized, you can actually file the paperwork.
- If you live in the county of jurisdiction, you can bring the paperwork directly to the courthouse to file. Bring it to the Clerk!
- If you do not live in the county of jurisdiction, you can either mail or fax the paperwork to the court of jurisdiction (it is advised to call the courthouse before you do this and ask which would be better.)
Congratulations! You have successfully filed paperwork to enforce the order!
About the Author: Amanda is a 22 year old single mom. She has a 3 year old daughter. Amanda and her ex-husband have a custody order currently. Recently, she has been dealing with an enforcement issue.
What to do after you've filed to enforce.
After you filed to enforce, it is a waiting game until it is looked at by the judge. Sometimes, filing to enforce an order can lead to a court hearing. If this is the case, you need all the evidence you can get.
- Document everything! Screenshot text messages between the parents, save chat logs, screenshot Skype conversations, log everything. Trust me, it will help to have all the evidence.
- After you've filed you will receive a summons in the mail (if you have to go to court). Once you receive the summons, you can call the courthouse and they will send you paperwork to get you a court appointed lawyer.
- Keep following the custody order even if the other person violated it. If you know the other person is not going to be there for visitation, go anyway. Keep doing your thing. You are doing your part of the order, whether the other person does it or not.
Good luck in going about this. From experience, I know this process is long and drawn out. You will have exhausted days and stress-filled nights. It will get better, trust me. Keep a level head and file paperwork as soon as possible. You will get through this. Now is a good time to surround yourself with family and friends. They love you and want to support you through all of this. I know it will feel like you are alone sometimes, you aren't. In fact, you probably have more support than ever.