UPDATED: February 10, 2020
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Frustration of visitation occurs when the custodial parent takes steps to prevent the non-custodial parent from having a scheduled child visitation. This could take place as an innocent isolated occurrence if, for example, the parent takes the child to a doctor at the time the non-custodial parent is to arrive at the residence for a child visitation. In such instances, there likely will be no legal recourse for the isolated incident, unless such emergencies become a routine practice and are seen as an attempt to sidestep the court ordered child visitation schedule.
An extreme situation in which one parent disappears with the child could be considered a kidnapping or abduction, which could result in criminal prosecution.
What Recourse Do Parents Have against Frustration of Visitation?
If one parent routinely denies access to a child at appropriate visitation times, there are a number of things the other parent can do. If you have a formal written custody agreement in place that dictates how and when child visitation occurs, you could seek the help of law enforcement or the courts in enforcing that visitation schedule. A parent who refuses to comply with child visitation rules could be found in contempt for disobeying a family court order.
A parent’s refusal to comply with a child visitation schedule can also jeopardize that parent's rights to the child since the court may feel that a modification of the custody arrangement is in order in light of the behavior. In any case, if frustration of visitation becomes a repeated and recurring event, keeping careful records of the incidents and getting the court involved will usually be the best option.
Frustration of Visitation vs. Kidnapping
When a parent engages in parental kidnapping, which involves fleeing with the child or taking the child to another state, this can rise to the level of criminal behavior. The Parental Kidnapping and Prevention Act (28 USC Sec 1738A) can apply in such situations and the law requires that each state enforce the custody decisions made in other jurisdictions. Parents who flee out of state with a child or who refuse to provide the other parent with knowledge of the child's location or access to the child could face prison time and a number of other stringent penalties if the behavior is seen to rise to the level of kidnapping.
If your child visitation agreement is not being respected, the first thing you should do is call a lawyer. Your lawyer can evaluate the situation and assist you in determining your best options for recourse.