A Divorce or separation from a partner can be physically and mentally draining. But when there are children involved it’s even more emotionally challenging. There is nothing more frustrating than having an ex who simply won’t comply with the custody arrangement. 

You ask yourself, “What do I do now?” 

It actually all depends on the type of arrangement you have in place.


In California, parents have the right to create their own visitation and custody agreement without a Court Order. When they reach agreeable terms, it then becomes a binding agreement. This is now enforceable should one of the parent’s become uncooperative.  

Seems pretty simple, right? EXCEPT, in order for a custody agreement to be enforceable, it needs to become a Court Order before it can be enforced. 

You need to make sure that your custody agreement has been turned into a judge for review and signature. Once the judge has approved and signed the agreement, you will need to file it with the court clerk. This ensures that the custody agreement is officially a Court Order which can then be enforced by the Court should a parent violate the arrangements. 

Please keep in mind that the Court Order should be as clear as possible. Specifically, on the details of custody including times, exchange place, holidays, vacations, birthdays, etc. 


Before getting any other party involved, there may be a better solution to address the custody issue.  Try discussing the issues with your ex. Perhaps you will be able to negotiate different terms and come up with a new amicable agreement. 

This doesn’t always work and can create an even more stressful situation. 

If and when that happens, there are several steps you can take:

  • Contact your local police department. Ask them to enforce the Order.
  • You can contact your county’s district attorney Child Abduction and Recovery Unit.
  • File an action of contempt with the court asking them to enforce the order. You need to make sure you provide reasons why your ex violated the Court Order. 

 But before you file an action with the court, take some time to think things through. Are the custody violations severe enough?

For example, is the other parent missing visitation exchanges; showing a chronic pattern of lateness; interfering with your visitation time; not taking the child to the doctor or school; is the alcohol or drug abuse involved? These are just some issues that would need to be addressed. 

The judge is there to do what is in the best interest of the child.  You should make sure you keep a good record of all the incidents that have occurred. 

You can review California’s law about modifying custody arrangements, see California Family Code Sections 3087 and 3088.

It is extremely important to note that in cases where you feel your child is in imminent danger, contact the police immediately! The police will get involved to enforce your custody agreement without a Court Order. 

If you still have questions about enforcing your custody arrangement, the best thing to do is to reach out to a family law attorney for a consultation. 

Contact me today! I am here to help.