Will Police Enforce Child Custody Orders in New Mexico?

By Bob Matteucci
Attorney

The police are unlikely to enforce child custody arrangements that you have without a written court order. Even with a court order, many officers will decline to get involved on the grounds that it is a matter for Family Court, not a police issue. One exception to the situation is when there is a reason to believe that the child’s safety is at risk.

If there is no safety issue, a parent’s remedy is usually to seek relief from the court, which can take months and cost money in court filing expenses and attorney fees. A New Mexico Family Law Attorney could explain your options and answer your questions, like, will police enforce your specific child custody order?

Why You Need a Written Court Order

The police cannot help you if you have an informal custody arrangement with the child’s other parent. Let’s say that for months or even years, you and the parent of your child have worked things out amicably and fallen into a routine of custody and visitation. Everything goes along fine until the other parent gets involved with someone new who refuses to follow the current arrangements.

The only protection you have is if you and the other parent have put the terms of the parenting time in writing and both signed and dated it. Even then, the paper would only be of interest to the judge, not the police. 

A written court order signed by a judge is the best way to enforce child custody visitation schedules. The police would view an informal arrangement as a “he said, she said” situation. 

What to Do if the Other Parent Violates the Child Custody Order

Violations of a child custody order generally take one of three forms:

  • A parent refuses to return a child after a period of custody.
  • A parent refuses to exercise scheduled visitation.
  • One parent wants to change the schedule, but the other parent disagrees with the change. The situation becomes a standoff until one of the parents backs down.

Assuming a court-ordered custody schedule was filed with the court when a parent refuses to return a child after a period of custody and says that the child will live with that parent now, the best option usually is to file a motion with the court to request appropriate remedies. Almost always, the court will order the return of the child. Many times, the Court will award extra time to the parent who missed scheduled time to make up the loss and make the violating parent pay the other side’s attorney fees. 

If a parent refuses to exercise scheduled visitation, the police will not force a parent to spend time with the child. There are several remedies that one could seek from a judge, including increasing the amount of child support that parents must pay because of fewer overnight visits and creating a new schedule of court-ordered parenting time.

In the situation of one parent not agreeing with a change the other parent requests, the judge will evaluate this on a case-by-case basis. By way of example, a parent who demands to keep a child for the entire holiday school break in violation of the court-ordered schedule might find himself or herself losing the entire break the next year for make-up time.

What to Do if the Child’s Safety is at Risk

When a parent has reason to believe that a child’s safety is at risk, for example, the other parent is fleeing the country with the child, it is often appropriate to call the police and a family law attorney. When irreparable harm could happen, like physical abuse or parental kidnapping, the police generally will get involved and an attorney can help you find the most efficient, effective route to taking care of your child. 

Child custody disputes are challenging matters. A New Mexico family law attorney can advocate for you if the other parent is violating your child custody orders. Contact Bob Matteucci today.

About the Author
Bob Matteucci is a board certified family law specialist, with a statewide practice in the area of divorce and family law.