Child custody is far and away the most contentious part of many divorces. Part of the difficulty is that the interaction with your child’s other parent does not end once the judge signs the final divorce decree. You still have to interact with your ex-spouse until your last child turns 18 years old (at least), and there will be plenty of opportunities for conflict year after year. One common issue is when one parent decides to keep the child for longer than the custody decree allows them to. If this is happening to you, what legal options do you have?
If your former spouse tends to keep the children for longer than they are supposed to, it can be annoying and infuriating. If it keeps occurring, though, and you have reminded your spouse that they are not living up to their obligations under the custody decree, then you might have to involve the court.
If you can prove a continued and demonstrable pattern of disregard for the terms of the agreement, then it might be grounds for a modification of the custody order.
If the other parent’s behavior goes beyond keeping your child for an extra day or two, and enters into the territory of them actually trying to deprive you of the right to see your children for an extended period of time, then they may be committing a crime called custodial interference.
New York has two specific categories of offenses related to custodial interference – first degree and second degree. Custodial interference is a felony in the first degree, and a misdemeanor in the second degree.
In the second degree, custodial interference is when your ex-spouse knows that you have the legal right to have your child with you, but they intend to keep the child for an extended period of time or permanently. If they try to leave the state with the child, or if they otherwise endanger the child, the charges might rise to the first degree level.
Custodial interference is a serious matter, not only because it violates your right as a parent to see your children, it also interferes with their right to have regular contact with you. While unfortunate and inconvenient, legal action might be necessary in order to protect yourself and your children.