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  4.  — What is custodial interference?

When a parent – typically divorced or separated from their former partner – attempts to obstruct the other parent’s custody rights, they could be accused of custodial interference.

Disputes over custody orders for children under 18 years old are a significant point of contention for many Tennessee parents. Some of the most serious cases can involve criminal charges, such as kidnapping.

Types of custodial interference

Examples of one parent’s attempt to interfere with the other’s custody rights typically occur in two ways:

  • Direct interference: Physically keeping the child from seeing the other parent by moving to another state, failing to drop off the child after a scheduled visit, taking them without permission or refusing to return the child in violation of a court order.
  • Indirect interference: Disrupting communications between the child and the other parent, such as blocking phone calls, intercepting emails or text messages and preventing the other parent from attending school events or other activities.

In some cases, custodial interference may not rise to a violation of the custody order, such as protecting a child from danger, severe weather or vehicle breakdowns that prevent a timely transfer or a planned trip or event previously agreed to by both parents.

Legal recourse when violations occur

If you experience disruptive custody tactics from an estranged or former spouse or partner, contact an experienced family law attorney, who can petition the court for relief. Depending upon the circumstances, that relief can include:

  • New visitation orders
  • Make-up time for lost visitation
  • Mediation or family therapy
  • Transfers at neutral locations
  • Loss of visitation or restrictions on parenting time
  • Supervised third-party visits
  • Fines and fees

Tennessee courts take these matters seriously, and offenders can find themselves facing a Class E or Class D felony or a Class A misdemeanor depending upon the length of time they violated the custody order and whether they voluntarily returned the child.

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