Sadly, some divorced parents refuse to abide by the terms of their child custody agreement. They deny their co-parent the access to their children that they're entitled to. Custodial interference is more than a violation of a custody order. Here in Texas, it can also be a felony.
Despite that, some parents say law enforcement agencies and prosecutors do little. One father says, "Interference happens in plain view of uniformed officers, but they won't make an arrest because they know the D.A. won't do anything with it. It's a waste of time."
That man was one of seven parents who recently talked with an El Paso investigative news team about what they say is the state's broken custody system. They talked about being kept from their children for months and even years. The lone woman in the group said, "I haven't seen two of my daughters since a year ago."
All but one said that they had called the police. Just two said their cases were referred to local prosecutors. There was only one indictment. The larger picture in the El Paso area supports those anecdotal stories. Between 2016 and 2018, El Paso Police got over 4,000 custody interference reports. Just 229 were referred to the district attorney (DA). Eleven cases resulted in indictments.
The local DA says custodial interference cases are best handled in family court because it"has the ability to hold a party...in contempt of court and have them jailed for violations of the court order."
One father notes that the state is more focused on collecting child support than enforcing visitation rights. The courts treat child support and visitation as two separate issues. You can't withhold one because you're not getting the other.
The parents say they're hoping to join with others throughout the state to lobby lawmakers to make changes. One parent said, "There's no reason we can't make it a requirement for kids to visit their parents based on a court order."
These parents talked about the time with their children they've lost and described feelings of anger, depression and hopelessness. Of course, children are often the ones who suffer the most when they're not allowed to see one of their parents. If you're dealing with custodial interference by your co-parent, talk with your family law attorney to determine how best to proceed.