Uncooperative Co-Parents and Dealing with Violations of the Custody Agreement

January 29, 2024 | By Marcelina R. Policicchio

Parenting is tough. Having a co-parent that refuses to follow the custody agreement makes it even more difficult. Fortunately, there are various approaches you can take when co-parenting is a challenge. Below is a list of options at your disposal if your child’s parent is interfering with your custody rights and you want to take action.   

Option 1: Point out the problem.

Custody agreements are usually very detailed and often after some time passes, a parent may be forgetful of a handful of the custody terms or may even think that some of the terms are no longer important. There may also be instances where a party may not realize that their actions are in violation of the agreement, or they may think that you do not care if all the terms are enforced. Therefore, pointing out the violation and reminding the parent of the terms of the agreement may be enough to resolve the problem. This option is always best communicated in writing with a reminder of which provisions have been violated. Making a good faith effort to resolve the problem without seeking court intervention is often looked on in a positive light if, in the future, court action is necessary to secure compliance.

Option 2: Consider co-parenting counseling or mediation.

Sometimes violations of the custody agreement are derived from differing interpretations of the terms of the agreement itself. Co-parenting counseling and mediation are great options for parents who disagree with their understanding of the custody terms and need a third-party intermediary to help come up with a solution.

Most co-parenting counselors are licensed professionals. A co-parent counselor’s goal is to help parents learn effective communication and conflict-resolution skills. Co-parenting counseling is often beneficial because it helps parents understand each other’s positions and addresses appropriate ways to react to one another’s communication styles. Many parents find co-parenting counseling to be helpful as it teaches them worthwhile communication skills that can be applied on an ongoing basis and used to avoid custody disputes in the future. 

Mediation is similar to co-parenting counseling as both processes are intended to be collaborative resources that parents can use to address custody disputes. The purpose of a mediator is to assist parents in identifying key issues, clarifying misinterpretations, and investigating areas of compromise or agreement. Both mediation and co-parenting counseling are less adversarial ways to resolve custody disputes rather than going through the court system. 

Option 3: Ask your attorney to send a letter.

If your attempts to resolve the issue on your own or with a third-party unbiased intermediary are unsuccessful, a letter from an attorney is a great way to show you are serious about making sure the custody agreement is followed properly. In most cases, an experienced attorney will use the letter to explain what actions were in violation of the agreement and remind your co-parent of the legal consequences of their non-compliance. Receiving a letter from an attorney can often be the reality check that a parent needs to get them to cooperate as most people want to avoid the stress, cost, and uncertainty of litigation.

Option 4: File a motion with the court.

If the other party continues to violate the custody agreement after being notified of the offenses, then sometimes seeking relief from the court may be the only way to resolve the issue. After your attorney sends a letter, your attorney can move the matter forward by filing a motion with the court. In preparing the motion, your attorney will likely include the sections of the custody agreement that have been violated, the dates the violations occurred, and details of each violation. Since these details are essential, it is important to keep track of all the agreements that were violated and provide your notes to your counsel. As a result of the motion, a judge can order various remedies depending on the circumstances, such as make-up time, co-parenting counseling, therapy, attorney’s fees, and jail time.

Option 5: Modify custody.

If you are dealing with a repeat offender who continues to violate the custody agreement, it may be worth considering a custody modification. With a modification, you can request a change to the custody arrangement or a change in legal custody depending on what issues have consistently been in dispute.

Conclusion:

If your relationship with the other party is tense and you have difficulty communicating, it is likely that the issues will not go away on their own. Having an experienced attorney will not only help you understand your options, but if dealt with appropriately, can help prevent future noncompliance. If you have questions related to your custody action, please contact a member of our team to determine what steps you should take based on your individual circumstances.


The information contained in this publication should not be construed as legal advice, is not a substitute for legal counsel, and should not be relied on as such. For legal advice or answers to specific questions, please contact one of our attorneys.

About the Authors

Marcelina Policicchio - Pittsburgh family law attorney

Marcelina R. Policicchio

Associate

Pittsburgh Family Law Attorney Marcelina divides her time between family law, commercial real estate, mineral title work and business transactional work. As a Pittsburgh family law attorney, her family law practice primarily...

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