What Are the Consequences of Violating a Texas Custody Order?

parents holding daughters hands

Following a divorce or separation, each parent will most likely be awarded custodial rights. A court order that outlines the parents’ rights and responsibilities regarding the children’s care, control, and custody is known as a custody or conservatorship order.

In Texas, custody is referred to as conservatorship, but many people still use the term “custody.” When a court issues a custody order, the parents are legally required to follow the order. If any parent fails to follow the terms of the custody order, they can be held responsible for the violation.

But what are the consequences of violating a custody order in Texas? The consequences of custody violations depend on the severity and circumstances of the violation. Typically, courts impose the following sanctions when a parent violates a custody order:

  • Issue a writ of habeas corpus ordering the violating parent to return the child

  • Find the non-compliant parent in contempt of court

  • Impose criminal penalties

  • Hold the parent civilly liable for interfering with the other parent’s visitation or possessory rights

Do not hesitate to speak with a Harker Heights child custody attorney if the other parent accused you of violating a custody order. Being accused of a custody violation is a serious matter that could get you in trouble with the law.

What is a Writ of Habeas Corpus in Custody Order Violations?

The term “habeas corpus” is Latin for “produce the body.” As its name implies, a writ of habeas corpus in child custody cases is used to require one parent to return the child to the other parent who is entitled to possession.

The writ of habeas corpus may be an appropriate measure when one of the parents refuses to return the child to the other parent in violation of the custody order. A Texas court may also require a parent to return a child when the child is at imminent risk of physical or emotional harm.

When Can You Be Found in Contempt of Court for Violating a Custody Order?

One of the most common ways to enforce a child custody order is to hold the violating parent in contempt of court. A parent can be found in contempt of court for violating the terms of their custody order or failing to fulfill their child support obligations in Texas.

The party filing a motion to enforce a custody order has the burden to prove that the other parent violated the terms of their child custody order. The court may refuse to find the parent who has violated the custody order in contempt of court if there is insufficient evidence of the alleged violation.

A Texas court may not hold a party in contempt of court if there is a lack of evidence to prove the violation, or the custody order does not contain specific provisions regarding:

  • The identities of the parents and their children

  • The dates and times of visitation and possession

  • The geographic locations of exchanges and visits

  • Prohibited activities, including relocating with children to other cities, states, or countries

In Texas, a court is likely to hold a parent in contempt of court for violating a custody order if that parent attempts to interfere with the other parent’s visitation or possession rights. A court will not hold the non-complying parent in contempt if there is evidence to prove that the other parent encouraged the violation or otherwise made it impossible for the parent to comply with the order.

Under Texas Government Code § 21.002, penalties for being held in contempt of court include up to $500 in fines and confinement in a county jail for up to six months.

What Are the Criminal Consequences of Violating a Custody Order?

A parent who violated a custody order may also face criminal penalties for the violation. Specifically, Texas Penal Code § 25.03 makes it a crime to interfere with child custody. The offense is a state jail felony.

You can face criminal penalties for interference with child custody if:

  • You knowingly take a child and are aware that taking the child violates the terms of a court order or judgment;

  • You have not been awarded custody of the child but take a child out of a specific geographic area without the court’s permission when a divorce is underway or an application for “habeas corpus” has been filed; or

  • You take a child outside of the country with the intent to deprive the other parent of their lawful possession or access to the child without that parent’s permission.

If you are facing criminal penalties for violating a child custody order in Texas, speak with a lawyer to determine what you can do to get the interference with child custody charges dismissed.

What is Civil Liability for Violating a Custody Order in Texas?

In addition to criminal penalties, a non-compliant parent may face civil liability for interfering with the other parent’s possessory and visitation rights. Texas Family Code § 42.002 provides that a person who takes a child or intentionally conceals the child’s whereabouts from the parent or guardian can be held liable for the damages incurred by that parent or guardian.

What to Do if You’re Accused of Violating a Custody Order?

While you may think that taking your child from the other parent in violation of a court order is the right thing to do, the other parent or the judge may not agree with you. You should be aware of the possible legal repercussions associated with violating the terms of a child custody order.

In addition to facing criminal and civil liability for violating a custody order, violating a custody order may impact your custody and visitation rights. For this reason, it is crucial to contact a family lawyer if you have been accused of violating a custody order.

At The Law Office of Brett H. Pritchard, our child custody lawyers can help you understand your rights and responsibilities as a parent who is being accused of violating a custody order. We are committed to protecting your rights and best interests. Call (254) 220-4225 for a case review.
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