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Bay Area Family Attorneys > Blog > Family Law > Custodial Interference in California

Custodial Interference in California


However the rest of a divorce is settled, at the end of the day most parents with underage children will end their divorce journey with some form of formal custody agreement in place. The family court system values the time and influence for the better that a child can gain from retaining regular and positive contact with both of their parents. When a custody agreement is ordered, it is not a recommended guideline or an aspirational ideal: the custody order establishes legally guaranteed times one parent may have custody or visitation of a child. The courts back these orders and do everything within their power to ensure that parental rights that they guarantee are honored.

Most custody agreements will build in a structure that allows the parents to voluntarily work together to be flexible about special occasions, or otherwise help one another out if they want to take the child on a day that would not normally be theirs, or allow the other parent to do the same. While this cooperation is ideal for the family and the child, it is not the same as one parent single-handedly deciding they will not honor the guarantees of the custody agreement, or begin to take actions that interfere with the other parents’ guaranteed time without the court’s approval.

This kind of interference, or resistance to following the court-ordered custody agreement, is referred to in California as “custodial interference.” This article aims to highlight what custodial interference is, why it matters, and what the consequences might be if a parent pursues it.

What is Custodial Interference?

Custodial interference refers to a number of acts taken by a parent in order to disrupt, or interfere, with another party’s custody rights. Life happens. Unexpected surprises and schedule changes happen. However, barring specific language in your custody agreement that states otherwise, one parent cannot deviate from the court-ordered custody agreement without an additional court-order that implements the changes.

While custodial interference can take on countless forms, some examples of actions that could constitute custodial interference include:

  • Having the child leave the state without notifying the child’s other parent
  • Moving without notifying the child’s other parent of your new address
  • Barring visitation with the child unless child support is brought up to date
  • Stopping a child from attending a visit guaranteed in the custody order
  • Failure to honor the custody agreements designated drop off and pick up times
  • Planning the child’s activities so they interfere with the other parent’s guaranteed parenting time without the other parent’s consent
  • Making false allegations of abuse against the other parent

Leaving the area or hiding your child could result in issues with the court. It is best to speak to an attorney and do things the right way.

Potential consequences

The court does not take custodial interference lightly. Depending on the actions taken, certain instances of custodial interference could rise to the level of one of the parents being charged with parental abduction. This might be the result if the court has reason to believe that one parent intended to hide the child. This could potentially result in jail time, fines, and may even lead to the loss of custody.

These matters are always dependent on the specifics of an individual case, and should be discussed with a knowledgeable family law attorney.

Contact Cardwell, Steigerwald Young

Parents will do what it takes to protect their children, and protect the time that they have with them. Contact our experienced team of San Francisco family attorneys to discuss any questions you have about your custody situation.



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