parents at table with childThis is the next post in a series of articles discussing situations in which a Little Rock, Arkansas parent refuses to return a child to the other parent in violation of a custody order. My last article focused on the legal process of enforcing one’s court-ordered custody agreement, including obtaining a pick-up order on an expedited basis. Doing so will allow law enforcement to assist you in quickly retrieving your child from the noncompliant parent. I also emphasized the need to avoid engaging in self-help in response to your co-parent’s actions. An experienced lawyer can review your case and provide prompt advice about your legal options. In this post, I will explain what happens following the issuance of the pick-up order. If you need assistance, contact my office today to speak with an attorney.

Immediately after a pick-up order is issued, law enforcement will accompany the parent to their co-parent’s residence to supervise the exchange of the child. An initial hearing will be held relatively soon thereafter. The purpose of the hearing is to determine if the offending parent should be held in contempt for failing to comply with the custody order. The court will consider several factors in making its decision. These may include the egregiousness of the parent’s behavior, any prior noncompliance, the number of requests made for the child’s return, and any other relevant case history. The court will also evaluate any potential justifications for the offending parent’s behavior. If held in contempt, the parent may be required to pay the legal fees incurred by the complaining parent and may be subject to additional fines or possible jail time. If a request to change custody is also pending, which I will discuss in the next article in this series, then the judge may also issue a decision related to that request.

Consider the following example. A custody order states that a child will stay with his mother Thursday through Sunday every week. On six occasions over the course of 12 months, the father elects not to send the child to his mother’s house as required and over her objections. She documents the noncompliance each time and threatens to take him to court if he fails to bring the child on time the following week. Instead of doing so, he claims that the child wants to remain at his house and does not deliver him to his mother’s. Mom obtains a pick-up order the following Monday morning. She retrieves her son with the help of the police. In the initial court filings, her attorney includes her documentation of the missed dates, as well as phone records, text messages and emails documenting her repeated requests for his compliance with the order. In this case, the court may find that his actions constitute contempt and hold him responsible for legal fees, etc. The mother may also elect to seek a modification in the custody order to avoid the problem in the future. If so, the court may issue a temporary custody change at the initial hearing as well. The court’s decision in any given case will depend upon the facts of the specific situation.

I am a Little Rock attorney who has experience in parental abduction cases. If you need assistance, then contact my office to speak with a lawyer. I also serve clients in Fayetteville, Fort Smith, Springdale, Jonesboro, North Little Rock, Conway, Rogers, Pine Bluff, and throughout the rest of Arkansas.