Can a Parent Legally Keep a Child From Another Parent?


Our Mesa Child Custody Lawyers Take a Look At Parents Keeping a Child From Another Parent

We analyze the repercussions, access the possible damages, and look at what can be done to protect your child when in danger from time with the other parent.

If you’ve split up with the parent of your child, there are probably a few hard and fast rules that you’re familiar with: don’t blame the child, the child doesn’t need to know specifics, co-parenting requires amicable communication, etc. But you’ve probably also heard about the importance of allowing your child to continue having a relationship with your ex. So you may be wondering whether it’s ever acceptable for you to keep your child from seeing their other parent. In Arizona, there are serious consequences for disobeying court custody orders, but it may be excused under certain circumstances. If you have additional questions about keeping your child from your ex after reading this article, call 480-833-8000 or use our online form to schedule a free consultation with one of our experienced Phoenix family law attorneys.

Parent Stopping a Child From Seeing The Other Parent in Mesa, AZ

Arizona Custody Basics

In Arizona, custody is divided into two components. Child support and child custody are two separate matters. Legal custody is also called legal decision-making, and refers to a parent’s right to make decisions about their child’s life like choice of school, medical treatments, religious tutelage, and more. The other type of custody is physical custody, also known as parenting time. As the name suggests, this refers to the amount of time the child spends with each parent, or whoever else may have custody. There are several factors that the court will consider when determining custody, but in Arizona, the parents’ genders are not among them. All custody decisions are made keeping the child’s best interests as the top priority.

Once custody orders are in place, judges typically don’t like to change, or modify, them. In fact, the parents will generally need to wait at least 12 months from the previous orders before requesting a custody modification from the court. A modification will only be granted if there has been a “substantial and continuing change in circumstances.”

What Can Happen If a Parent Does Keep a Child From The Other Parent?

Arizona places a high value on giving children the opportunity to have equal relationships with both parents. Punishing your ex by withholding your child from them could end up backfiring on you. Unless you’re prepared to face the following consequences, you should abide by your custody orders to the letter. Arizona judges take following custody orders very seriously.

Consequences That May Happen Do Not Follow The Custody Order:

  • Reprimand by your family law judge
  • Court sanctions and fines
  • The judge may modify your custody orders to take away your physical or legal custody
  • Potential criminal charges and jail time

Legal Recourse To Another Parent Withholding a Child

You could be reading this article on the reverse side of the situation, meaning that you are the parent presently being kept from your child. Before proceeding, you should discuss your situation with a Glendale family law attorney, as every situation is unique. Much of your decision on what to do next could depend on how amicable your relationship with your ex is. You should usually try to work things out with your child’s other parent before resorting to more serious methods. You may also be able to simply pick your child up from school, church, or any other activities laid out in your parenting plan. Otherwise, it could be time to get the police involved. This is especially true if the other parent has taken your child out of the state or country. You will also need to file a writ with the court so the judge can be informed that the other parent isn’t obeying the custody orders.

What If My Child Is In Danger?

There are several reasons that people wish to keep their child from their other parents. Maybe one parent refuses to agree to a temporary informal custody modification for a specific event such as a wedding or a vacation. Perhaps, one parent has fallen far behind on child support payments. Possibly, it’s simply inconvenient for one parent to take the child to the specific custody transfer location on that day. However, all these reasons have something in common- they aren’t emergency situations. It is best that when considering withholding the children from the other parent that the situation rises to the level of an emergency situation.

The court doesn’t expect you to hand-deliver your child to a predator or a dangerous situation. Keeping the child from danger is the only acceptable reason to prevent a child from seeing their other parent as per custody orders. But you can’t just withhold visitation and hope things work themselves out. The court won’t punish a parent for withholding custody if abuse, domestic violence, or neglect is present. If you believe your child is being abused, or is at risk of being abused if returned to the other parent’s custody, you should bring these claims to the police. Whenever possible, you should seek the advice of an experienced Mesa family law attorney through every step of this process.

While usually there is a 12-month minimum waiting period between custody modifications, the court will hear an emergency custody modification without this restriction. A family member besides the other parent, such as grandparents, aunts, uncles, etc., can also file for an emergency custody modification. To request an emergency modification, you will need to file a petition that describes your reasoning for doing so. You must also file a standard modification petition along with it, if you haven’t done so already. You will also need to explain why the other parent shouldn’t need to be noticed as they would for a standard modification hearing. Furthermore, you will file this with the court, and the court will either rule on the motion or set a later hearing date. Don’t bring your children to this hearing. If the court finds you are abusing this procedure or lying about abuse, you could be held in contempt of court. To make sure that your emergency modification is drafted as strongly as possible, you should hire a seasoned and knowledgeable Mesa custody attorney in your area.

Affordable, High-Quality Arizona Child Custody Lawyers

Whether your child’s other parent is interfering with your parenting time, or if you think you need more custody than allotted to you in your current orders, you should consider hiring a Phoenix custody attorney to represent you in the matter. Requesting a custody modification is difficult, time-consuming, and it can also be expensive. That’s why you’ll want to make sure that your petition to modify custody is as strong as possible, the first time. Once the judge rejects a request for a custody modification, it will be even harder to be successful on your second try. Your custody attorney can also help you assemble evidence to help support your claims, as well as articulate your arguments to the judge in court. Your attorney will also be responsible for negotiations with the other party, and can represent you at any custody-related mediation as well.

Our dedicated Arizona family law team offers all of the above and more at a price that you can afford. We can help you navigate Arizona’s complex custody system so that you can achieve the best possible results for your family in court. Pay for your legal representation with affordable rates and payment plan options. See what our team can do for you yourself by starting off with your free initial consultation. We may even have a family lawyer available for a same day free phone consultation to discuss your case. Call or use our online form to get started today.


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