Visitation interference is the intentional and unjustified refusal to follow a court ordered visitation agreement. According to the the United States Census Bureau, over 80% of custodial parents are mothers. Approximately 50% of custodial mothers feel that there is no value in the noncustodial father maintaining continued contact with his children. Many mothers also intentionally prevent child access in order to retaliate against the father for the parent’s relationship problems. Whether custodial mothers feel that it is unnecessary to allow the father access to his child or they intentionally seek to punish the father by withholding visitation, neither reason is sufficient justification to ignore the court ordered visitation agreement. By flagrantly disregarding a court order, many custodial mothers open themselves up to significant legal consequences.
Under § 9-105 of the Family Law Article, Annotated Code of Maryland, if “the court determines that a party to a custody or visitation order has unjustifiably denied or interfered with visitation granted by a custody or visitation order, the court may, in addition to any other remedy available to the court and in a manner consistent with the best interests of the child, take any or all of the following actions: (1) order that the [missed] visitation be rescheduled; (2) modify the custody or visitation order to require additional terms or conditions designed to ensure future compliance with the order; and (3) assess costs or counsel fees against the party who has unjustifiably or interfered with visitation rights.”
For the non-custodial parent, it can be frustrating to deal with the contempt process. Many fathers feel that the system is set up for the mother “to win”, and that even if something is done, it will amount to little more than a legal “slap on the wrist”. However, fathers need to understand that they have the right to be in their children’s lives, and the Courts will not tolerate the mother’s willful disregard of a standing court order. Eventually, if the custodial parent continues to refuse child access in accordance with the order, the Courts will set stricter boundaries and restrictions upon the custodial parent to ensure compliance with the Court Order. In some cases, the Court may even find that the custodial parent’s refusal to allow visitation is a substantial change in circumstance sufficiently egregious enough to change custody altogether.
Denying the father access to his children is not in the best interest of the father, but it ultimately, and most importantly, is not in the best interest of the child. When the custodial parent intentionally refuses to adhere to the ordered visitation, it is important to build a case and send a clear message to the custodial parent that denial of child access will not be tolerated. The assistance of a knowledgeable family law attorney is very often necessary to ensure that the correct plan of action is chosen. Our family law attorneys at JM Blattner, LLC are experienced with helping Maryland noncustodial parents address contempt issues and gain their rightful access to their children.