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​My Ex Won’t Abide by Custody Arrangements. What Do I Do?

family court law

If you are in a child custody situation where the other parent won’t follow the decisions made by the family court judge, you may be frustrated, angry, and unsure of what to do.

Your divorce lawyer may have been instrumental in helping you achieve a divorce decree that’s fair to you, but issues between parties can still linger even after the divorce is final.

A child custody lawyer with experience in Florida family courts and a deep knowledge of the laws regarding custody arrangements and the obligations of both parents can help you get resolution when the other party is flouting the arrangement.

There are some dos and don’ts involved when your ex refuses to abide by the court’s custody decree. Enforcing the decree can get tricky, and it’s not something that many people are equipped to handle on their own, especially in an emotional situation regarding their children.

A child custody attorney acts in the interests of you and your children and can help ensure that your ex complies with the court ruling.

What You Should Do if Your Ex Won’t Obey the Child Custody Orders?

Non-compliance with a custody order covers a lot of ground, and what you may regard as a minor annoyance may be non-compliance on the part of your ex.

For example, Florida family law courts consider these acts non-complaint:

  • Consistently picking up or returning the child later than the agreed-upon time
  • Keeping the child overnight in spite of regulations forbidding overnight visitation
  • Making derogatory comments about you in front of or to your child
  • Exploiting vagueness in the custody arrangement to get more time with the child
  • Scheduling vacations or other events for when the child is in your custody

These are just a few ways that parents attempt to get around the restrictions of a custody order. If you’re not sure whether your ex’s actions violate the terms of your custody agreement, you should consult with a child custody attorney experienced in contentious custody mediation.

What Are My Options if My Ex Violates Our Custody Arrangement?

Change in Custody Arrangement

The parent with primary physical custody is considered the child’s primary guardian. As such, they are responsible for the child’s well-being. This parent has decision-making authority the non-custodial parent does not, which gives them and their divorce attorney several options if the non-custodial parent refuses to follow the decree.

Some options that your child custody lawyer may employ to get your ex to cooperate include the following:


Legal Missive

Your child custody lawyer can send a legal missive to your ex, notifying them that they must either comply with the custody arrangement or face legal consequences.


You and your lawyer can seek mediation with your county’s Family Services Office, which may help you and your ex resolve any problems or ambiguities in the custody arrangement. This option prevents you from having to go to court.

Change in Custody Arrangement

Your lawyer can petition a judge to change your custody arrangement. If your ex is consistently breaking the order, then the judge may alter the custody arrangement to restrict your ex’s time with the child.

Contempt of Court

Your child custody attorney may suggest filing a motion for contempt of court. Custody orders are legally binding, and failure to comply with a judge’s order could be considered contempt.


You have the option to call the police if you can’t get a resolution any other way. You will need a copy of the custody order when calling, but the police can force your ex to return your child to you.

If custody was contentious during the divorce, document any violations of the custody order after the divorce is final. These records should include times when your ex is late picking up your child or when they try to get extra visitation time by scheduling vacations or trips during your time.

If your ex is responsible for ensuring that your child gets to school, you may want to include attendance records showing that they failed to do so. Follow your child custody attorney’s guidance regarding what to document and how to do it.

Things to Avoid Doing in a Non-Compliant Custody Situation

Compliance with the custody order is the responsibility of both parties. While some actions may feel tempting, like keeping your child from going to the other parent’s house or making snide comments about your ex in front of the child, the judge will not look favorably upon these things.

Here are some things to avoid doing if your ex won’t abide by the custody order:

  • Don’t speak unkindly about your ex where your child can hear you
  • Don’t move to another location to make sharing custody more difficult
  • Don’t retaliate by dropping off the child late or withholding child support
  • Be judicious about when you go to court and avoid frivolous court actions

Follow the advice of your child custody lawyer they know the courts and the judges and can advise you of when an issue requires the police or a judge to intervene and when an issue should be worked out between parents.

It can be frustrating when issues involve your children, and it’s difficult to avoid getting emotional. Remember to trust your lawyer’s cool head and professional advice when situations start to feel frustrating.

Always Consider the Best Interests of Your Child

Children see and hear a lot, and those at the center of a custody battle may blame themselves for the difficulties their parents are having.

While it can be tempting to retaliate against your ex by withholding support or engaging in tit-for-tat, ultimately, it’s your child who will suffer. Take the high road, consult with your divorce lawyer, and consider which actions will benefit your child the most.

If you need assistance with non-compliance in a child custody case, seek experienced representation with a family law attorney as soon as possible.

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