Donate Child Support Calculator
Skip navigation

(USA) How to Enforce Visitation Rights Yourself

Many Dads experience difficulties and blockages with their child access rights, with judges and police doing little to nothing to help. Here are some suggestions to consider.

This short guide was written with the USA in mind and contains information and suggestions that as specific to that country.

However, some of the advice is generic, while some other may give rise to ideas that apply locally.

As with all information, don't take it as gospel, but consider it carefully to ensure is legal, sensible and good for you and your children/family.



Men's News Daily
23 December 2007

ERROR: A link was posted here (url) but it appears to be a broken link.
How To Enforce Visitation Rights Yourself

By David Usher

Many men find themselves caught between police officers who refuse to enforce visitation rights and family judges who refuse to do anything after-the-fact. Since feminists won't give them one, it is up to us to show them the way.
 
In the 1990's, I developed an effective method for visitation / parenting time enforcement that worked very well. We ended up training the St. Louis Police Department with it. Please note that I am not an attorney and that this method should not be construed as legal advice. It is experiential advice that is being handed down from one activist to another.
 
The key to enforcing your parental rights is to know the difference between police and courts functions. Police serve in two capacities. When acting as peace officers, they enforce or supervise court orders (such as eviction notices and parenting time orders), and to prevent crimes when they believe one is about to be committed. As officers of the law, police are required to arrest when they see that a crime has probably been committed. Criminal courts then try these cases. Fathers who understand how this system works, and apply the mechanism intelligently, can get visitation / parenting time orders enforced with little trouble.
 
Family courts should be used only after a long history of visitation interference has been documented, primarily to seek compensatory parenting time and in egregious cases a change of custody. Family courts are not the place to go to get your order enforced on a weekly basis. Family courts are too busy, too little, too late, and will not apply punitive measures for single violations of parenting time orders.

You can
ERROR: A link was posted here (url) but it appears to be a broken link.
download a printable PDF document of this piece to use for training your local police and to distribute at your meetings:

Attachment



Background Information
 
Before seeking enforcement of your order, here are a few things you should do if possible:
 
1. Verify that you have an enforceable order. Orders that say "every other weekend" are not enforceable. It must stipulate something like "first and third Friday of each month from 5:00 PM until 8:00 AM the following Monday.
 
2. Check state and local laws to find out if visitation interference is a crime. In most states it should be at least a class-A misdemeanour. Copy the statute from the website and print out multiple copies of it to show to police.
 
3. It is best to collect physical evidence proving a history of visitation interference. This is easily done by audio recording these in-person interactions using a small USB keychain MP3 player/recorder. These devices produce excellent recordings and cost about $50- $60. The Samsung models are very easy to put in record while it is in your pocket. These devices hear as well as you do, will clearly record anything that you can hear.
 
4. Recording these interactions is extremely important to prevent a false domestic violence charge, or to turn the tables on a falsely-accusing mother right at the doorstep.. Mothers who insist on interfering with visitation often use false allegations of domestic violence or child abuse to cut you off. Mothers also often say the stupidest things while you are standing at the door. There is nothing better than being able to play a fresh recording of her saying that she will make a false allegation of abuse, a recording that proves that she is lying through her teeth. While a recording probably will not get her arrested, it will prevent your arrest and put the officer in a mood to enforce your visitation rights.
 
5. Be sure that children are not aware about your recordings. Keep them out of the middle at all costs.
 
6. It is best to not let your ex-spouse know you are documenting transactions unless it is absolutely necessary. However, you should check state and local laws to make sure it is legal to record your in-person transactions.
 
7. If you are planning to record telephone conversations to collect evidence, you must also verify this is legal (in your country/state). The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press has a resource page where you can check your state (in the USA). See: http://www.rcfp.org/taping/. It is also advisable to get advice from an attorney to ensure that higher court rulings have not negated the statute, and also to check on admissibility of these recordings.
 
8. It is best to keep recordings as short as possible, in case they have to be transcribed for a court proceeding. Keep your interactions short, to the point, and do not allow yourself to get into repeating old arguments that have no bearing on the situation at hand.
 
9. Dump the recordings onto your hard drive after each event. Keep a word document or Excel sheet identifying the file name, location where the recording was made, date and time of the recording, the name/model of the machine the recording was made on, and a short paragraph highlighting the exact sentences of importance that are on that recording. This is very important if the recordings are needed for a court proceeding. These files can be burned to CD ready for introduction.
 
Most judges greatly dislike introduction of recordings at trial, because the entire recording must be transcribed and it takes lots of court time for examination and cross-examination. In my case, I got the evidence into the record in a form the opposition could not contest. What I did was to say that I could not exactly remember what was said on certain dates, and asked the judge if I could "view my notes" to refresh my memory. The exact things that were said went straight into the court record and I won the case pro-se.
 
Picking Up The Children
 
1. Always keep 10 feet physical distance between you and her. If she advances, you back off. If she has been threatening a false abuse allegation, it is best to ring the doorbell and then stand on the public sidewalk, or off the porch or at least 25 feet away from the door.
 
2. Never raise your voice or argue with her. Be reasonable. Remind her that you are there to help raise the kids so she has a life too. If she insists on arguing, go to step 4.
 
3. If she refuses to comply, calmly and confidently let her know you will have the police come to enforce the order.
 
4. If she still refuses to comply, return to your car, call 911 and request police assistance to enforce a court parenting-time order.
 
Enforcing The Order
 
1. Call the police and request assistance enforcing a valid parenting-time court order. Give them your name and address where you are at. Remain in your car until the police arrive.
 
2. Always obey orders of the police. If you do not, you might find yourself "going downtown".
 
3. When the police arrive, it is your job to train them. You need to be very professional and matter of fact. You need to walk like attorney, talk like attorney, and be polite, firm, and confident with them. Forget your father's rights language. If you are angry, give yourself a few minutes to cool down. You are an "attorney" for this moment in time. I found that I did my best work by stepping out of my emotions and personal situation, to address the issue dispassionately as a much larger issue - as if I was representing somebody else.
 
4. Hand them your court order, a copy of the state criminal statute, and a copy of this article. Show the officer that visitation interference is a criminal offence. Police are required to arrest when they have reason to believe that a crime has been committed. It is your job to demonstrate that she intends to commit an act of visitation interference, and that you are requesting the assistance of the officer, acting to keep the peace, to enforce the order (police get calls all the time to enforce court orders - yours is no different that an eviction order).
 
5. If police tell you this is not a police issue - that you should take it to the family court, you must point out #2 again, and let him know that family courts are for litigating custody changes and compensatory time after a long history of violations. The are not designed nor do they have time, to act as weekly enforcers of visitation.
 
6. Police might want to call the prosecutor to see what they should do. Remind them that police already know what to do if they have reason to believe a crime will be or has been committed. Police serve in two important capacities: preventing crime (as peace or public safety officers) and arresting those who did commit a crime. You are asking the police to do both. If the police insist on calling the prosecutor, give them your attorney's number and request the police speak with your attorney first. It may be necessary to have the prosecutor call your attorney if the police are being uncooperative.
 
7. Show the method below to the police so they know how to approach this situation (they undoubtedly have never been trained on it).
 
8. Return to your car and stay in it while the police enforce the order. It is important that this issue be between her and the police, with you essentially "out of the picture".
 
Police Procedure
 
1. The officer(s) approach the door and ring the doorbell.
 
2. If nobody answers the door, request the police write a police report documenting that the parent was not there to permit transfer of custody. Follow up later and get the police report number. This can be used to document a history of interference later.
 
3. If she answers the door, the officer shows her the court order, and asks if she has a more recent order of the court modifying the existing order. If she cannot produce a more recent order …
 
4. He asks her to bring the child(ren) to the door to make sure they are OK. In many jurisdictions police can make this request pursuant to child abuse laws.
 
5. If a baby or a toddler is involved, the police notify the mother that she should prepare the child to go with the father.
 
6. If older children are involved, the officer squats down (so as not to appear threatening), says hello to the kids and perhaps a couple of nice comments to put the kids at ease. The officer says that daddy is waiting in the car for them, and asks them to go get their things (age-appropriate things such coats, books, toys, extra clothing).
 
7. If the mother objects, the officer requests that the mother come outside the home, and informs the mother that visitation interference is an 'arrest able' offence, and that he will have no choice but to arrest her if she does not cooperate. The officer may also need to point out that if she is arrested, the children will have to go with the father, so it is better to cooperate.
 
8. If small children need to be carried, the officer motions to the father to come up to carry the child. If permitted by departmental policy, it is best for the officer to transfer the child from the mother to the father. The father may also be needed to help carry the children's personal effects.
 
9. If separation anxiety kicks in, the officer should be firm but kind, letting the child know that Daddy has lots of hugs for them too.
 
Police Outreach and Training
 
With this document, you can 'train' your police officers "on the job" to get your visitation enforced. In addition, here are a few items you should do
 
1. Find out who does training for in your local police department. Explaining the problem, and offer this method for use by the training team. You can earn brownie points by offering to do training sessions for the police.
 
2. Go to the police station to see if the department has a violation code number assigned for each statutory criminal infraction created by the legislature. The chances are they do not. Police are far more likely to write citations when a violation code number is on their list. If they don't see a violation code, they think its not a crime.
 
3. Meet with the Chief of Police. Explain the importance of using this model to keep the peace in divorce and custody situations. Public safety is a particularly important issue where divorced parents are involved. Enforcement of visitation keeps the peace and prevents downstream disagreements which, if unaddressed, can lead to murder or serious domestic violence.
 
4. Remember that police leadership is far more likely to be your friend than not. Police work the streets every day and know exactly what is going on. Police officers are often treated more harshly in family courts than the average man. They are trained to subdue people and to maintain control in the worst of situations. Feminist lawyers use this fear tactic to destroy the parenting and economic rights of police quickly in divorce and custody situations. Once the police know you are on their side, they should be at your service.

Protesting

In rare cases, protest may be necessary to attract public attention to the issue and to embarrass her into compliance. Here are the basics of protest:

1. It is best to have at least two people do the protest. Four to ten people is excellent. There is safety in numbers. Your fathers group should take turns assisting each other.

2. Signs should say something like "Visitation interference is a crime", "Set my children free", "Children need fathers too". It is best not to make signs about "My ex …". Signs should be hand carried - not on sticks (which can be used to hit people). Signage is easily generated with a word processor. Print the page out, take it to Kinkos and have it blown up to poster board size. Staple the printouts to poster board and you are in business.

3. Focus on the needs of children and the importance of fatherly parenting. Children who have fathers are far less likely to get into trouble, get pregnant out of wedlock, use drogs or alcohol.

4. Do not say nasty things about the police, the prosecutor, or the courts. The purpose of the protest is to win the support of police, the prosecutor, and the courts. Work the issue, and win them over.

5. The First Amendment covers only you and what you are carrying on public property. Chairs, tables, briefcases, cameras on tripods, and anything else set down are not covered. If you need a briefcase for handouts or documents, get a leather shoulder-strap briefcase and wear it. In most jurisdictions, the public sidewalk and street are public property. Police might try to make you leave. You can firmly assert your right to protest. But in the end, if the police intend to arrest you, you must choose whether you will leave or push your First Amendment rights. My experience is that police back down when you push your First Amendment rights properly. Do not push your First Amendment rights unless you know what you are doing and are fully prepared to take a trip downtown to prove the point.

6. Dress nicely, carry at least $20 cash on you, park your car on a public street, do not go on any private property.

7. Walk back and forth on the nearest public sidewalk. Do not block access to any home, business, or driveway.

8. Do not stop to talk to anyone except police or reporters. Keep moving at all times so you cannot be accused of vagrancy.

9. Fax a press release to your local television and radio stations the day you will protest. Indicate the exact time you will be protesting. You only need to protest for 30-60 minutes to get coverage. Be there 30 minutes ahead of time.

10. If you are interviewed, speak to the larger issues. Have only one person authorized to speak to the media. This person should be your best spokesperson. The media will try to interview everyone, and will probably air the stupidest thing anyone said. Your team must understand the importance of shutting up and letting the best spokesperson do the interviews. It is OK to mention that your children are being denied their father and to point to the house where the infraction is being committed. But do not mention her name or the children's names - and do not use the word "ex".

11. Have an MP3 recorder on your person or camcorder running on your dashboard the entire time to protect yourself from allegations of abuse or threatening behavior.

David R. Usher (drusher at swbell.net) is Senior Policy Analyst for the True Equality Network, and President of the American Coalition for Fathers and Children, Missouri Coalition

Comment:

mdkn1 said:

Excellent advice. I used similar method in New York State many years ago. Always carry a cell phone with you. Always carry a camera with you and have the time/date turned on. Always take photos of the child with her friends, yourself & relatives etc. on your visitations. These will come in handy when interviewing with the Child's law guardian later. It is also best to have another person around on your visitations as a future witness to against the false accusations that follow.

December 23, 2007 at 3:50 am
We contacted the police on one of the ex's contraventions and found that while they were sympathetic, there was not a lot they could do.

I definitely think a 3rd umpire is required when it comes to denied visitation. It's too easy to claim the child is sick, the child is too upset and a 100 other reasons why visitation should not happen. By the time you get to court, the FM will only grant more time…
which is still not enforcable.

I think more FMs need to consider putting in orders that the next proved contravention will result in a change of "lives with" status.

Junior Executive of SRL-Resources

Executive Member of SRL-Resources, the Family Law People on this site (Look for the Avatars). Be mindful what you post in public areas. 
Artemis, which police did you contact, my understanding is that in most states (I think WA and exception) it is a matter for the Federal police, not the state police. However I think it would be good to discuss the differences that may affect Aussies.

My first point that I'm not sure of, is, are the Federal police required to intervene if a crime is in progress (i.e. contravention of court orders). Are the state police required to intervene if they know of a Federal Crime being committed?

I also believe that I know of two people who have correctly used the Federal Police to enforce orders.
MikeT said
My first point that I'm not sure of, is, are the Federal police required to intervene if a crime is in progress (i.e. contravention of court orders). Are the state police required to intervene if they know of a Federal Crime being committed?

I also believe that I know of two people who have correctly used the Federal Police to enforce orders.
All Police are obligated to protect the community from harm, however a contravention is not a crime in progress it is a person ignoring a 'civil order'. State Police are generally very reluctant to get involved with Federal Family Law matters. However both forces can enforce an order if they are sanctioned by a Court.

There are several exceptions, an example is if someone tries to remove a child from Australia that is protected by the 'Watch Scheme' they are very likely to be arrested and detained, not for contravention but because they have effectively broken several Federal Laws governing Immigration.

Executive Member of SRL-Resources, the Family Law People on this site (look for the Avatars) Be mindful what you post in public areas. 
Artemis said
We contacted the police on one of the ex's contraventions and found that while they were sympathetic, there was not a lot they could do.

I definitely think a 3rd umpire is required when it comes to denied visitation. It's too easy to claim the child is sick, the child is too upset and a 100 other reasons why visitation should not happen. By the time you get to court, the FM will only grant more time… which is still not enforcable.

I think more FMs need to consider putting in orders that the next proved contravention will result in a change of "lives with" status.
Unless the children are at risk, they generally will not get involved.

Some FMs have made orders threatening this but of course the children then pay some of the penalty. There is no standardisation of penalties but there has been a very agreeable trend to send them off to the more specialized parenting courses and communication courses. Then if it happens again - the book can be thrown at them. A nice non financial penalty is of course the Community Service Order but alas in NSW there is no arrangement between the State of NSW and Federal Government to enact these.

Executive Member of SRL-Resources, the Family Law People on this site (look for the Avatars) Be mindful what you post in public areas. 
So does this mean there is a GAP in the law in that there are no consequences for women who refuse to follow orders? Surely women are expected to follow the rule of law? Is there  a law or consequences or not?

 Maybe I am not explaining myself well enough
Jon.

Of course there are consequences for contraventions, but often the Courts have to decide who might actually suffer.

Simply administered 'out of the box' penalties do not act as deterrents, many of the creative ones do.

I just like CSO's because the aggrieved party usually has the children and the guilty party has to put in some honest graft.

Executive Member of SRL-Resources, the Family Law People on this site (look for the Avatars) Be mindful what you post in public areas. 
Agog.

I suppose my main issue is the ease with which the community allows men to be 'punished' and expresses outrage at women being 'punished' - this may be a historical issue - but regardless - if we surveyed women (still married) on the idea that they could be punished for not doing the right thing - I doubt we would find many women who would be prepared to abide by the law, judgments, orders or anything else - they would rather do what they 'thought' was right - in a belief that they knew best - especially regarding 'their' children.

I believe that MOST women believe that - i.e. there being no real consequences for them.

Men - who have done what they thought was 'right' have been branded by the press as child abductors, hounded by the police and media and international manhunt (a still relevant term).

Men now know they must work through 'the system' to try and get what they think is 'right'. I am not sure women think the same way - that is I hypothesize that many women believe they simply will never lose - for many of them going to court is about trying to GET AS MUCH AS THEY CAN from the other party.

It's all very well having laws in place but if the public perception remains unchanged …

How many females go to court demanding that the other parent has full custody or even 50/50?

So let's have a multi-million dollar government campaign - 'Women need to respect the law - women will be punished equally with men, Orders are orders, Don't put down the children's parent, False allegations will be punished, AVOs - will be taken seriously - false allegations will be punished'.

 Maybe I am not explaining myself well enough
1 guest and 0 members have just viewed this.

Recent Tweets