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Can your ex deny visitation or a custody exchange?

The court order from your divorce says that you and your ex must split custody of the kids. When you arrive to pick them up one day, however, your ex refuses to let you take them. Is this legal?

Generally speaking, it is not legal. Your ex is bound by that court order and must respect your rights as a parent. They cannot deny your visitation rights or custody rights.

Some of the reasons people give when they do this -- not that all of these reasons make it legal, but it's still helpful to know what they are -- include the following:

  • You did not pay child support
  • It was inconvenient for them
  • They had transportation issues
  • They do not approve of a new romantic relationship in your life
  • They are angry with you about something
  • They claim to fear for the child's safety
  • The child said they do not want to go with you, and it was actually the child who would not participate

It is important to note that parents can ask the court to change the custody arrangement, especially if they have legit safety concerns. However, they cannot take things into their own hands. They also cannot withhold visitation or deny a custody exchange simply because they're angry with you or out of spite -- no matter how justified they think they are.

If this does happen, without the approval of the court, then your rights have been violated. It is crucial for you to know all the legal options that you have at your disposal.

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