As parents, we joke about how we might not miss seeing our kids from, say, when they are 13 through 17. Teenagers can be a handful, no doubt, but every parent wants to stay connected and involved with their children. Even divorced parents deserve to keep their family together in some way. Court-decreed visitation allows for that, but what is a man to do when his ex-wife prevents him from seeing his own kids?
Visitation Interference & Contempt
To hold someone in contempt, in the legal sense, means the court finds the person is not respecting the court, its decrees, and the judge. The offender is in contempt of the court, and few Virginia judges take kindly to such disrespect. Your first answer to an ex-wife defying the court’s instructions by refusing you to see or interact with your own children is to discuss with your lawyer a contempt motion based on visitation interference.
Virtual Visitation & Great Recordkeeping
Today in Virginia you can “visit” with your kids even if you are in the office at Virginia Beach and your kids are at Disney World. Electronic visitation includes (but is not limited to) telephone calls, social media, Skype contact, e-mail, or text.
This means you have an easy time keeping records of visitation denial. Say you call and cannot reach either child or ex-wife, though you expected to reach one or the other. Leave a voicemail message and also send a text, asking your ex-wife to facilitate having your children call you. Screenshot the text, so you now have a time- and date-imprinted record of your attempted “visitation.”
Preserve all the records of time and date of calls, plus your actual texts. Your records will show, for example, a less-than-a-minute call to your ex-wife during which you left a message, followed by a text asking for your ex to help the kids call you. A series of these demonstrates a pattern of contempt; she is preventing you from speaking with your children, so she is interfering with visitation.
The lawyer’s secret: keep the call from your phone short, so the court knows you could have left a message but could not have had a meaningful “visit” in that minute by actually talking to your children.
I’m Here; Where are My Kids? Document Face-to-face Visits
Keep a virtual “paper” trail to document visitation interference for face-to-face visits. Send emails to clarify times and dates for visits. If you, for example, send an email on a Monday to arrange the following weekend, your ex-wife has a duty to respond within a reasonable time to confirm the details. Saturday morning at 5:30 a.m. will not count as “reasonable,” so such a late response could be viewed as contempt.
Be careful, since your ex-wife could have a logical reason for failing to get back to you—or asking for a postponement of a visit—once in a while (power outage, out of town, illness, etc.). You are seeking to document patterns of deliberate actions that she is trying to avoid visitations. Refusals that are from anger, whim or spite can be revealed as such from the emails and voicemails the two of you exchange. Enough evidence can quickly add up to support a contempt charge.
Incremental Change … Turn Up the Heat
You can go at her both barrels (metaphorically, we mean), or you can start off diplomatically. Your lawyer will be wise enough to consider, for example, civil contempt sanctions. This is the “shot across the bow,” sure to get your ex-wife’s attention. Not only will the court likely find her in contempt, it will likely compel her to pay your attorney’s fees and court costs.
If you need to cite the chapter, cite the Code of Virginia, Title 20 Domestic Relations, Chapter 6.1 Custody and Visitation Arrangements of Minor Children, § 20-124.2, Court-ordered custody and visitation arrangements. Skim down to subsection E, as in Enough!, where you can find the teeth in the law:
“The court shall have the continuing authority and jurisdiction to make any additional orders necessary to effectuate and enforce any order entered pursuant to this section or § 20-103 including the authority to punish as contempt of court any willful failure of a party to comply with the provisions of the order.”
Dealing with Visitation Interference? Counsel
Angry and frustrated as you may be from the capricious acts of your ex-wife in preventing you from seeing your own children, you cannot lose your cool. You have to maintain your temper and maintain close contact with your attorney. Leave the legal headaches to your attorney from The Firm for Men. Call our offices today at 757-383-9184 or contact us online and let us help you see your children again!
Yes, our experienced visitation lawyers serve all of Hampton Roads, from Virginia Beach to Suffolk, Chesapeake to Newport News and beyond!