When couples split up, emotions can run high. No matter what the circumstances, it can be tempting to disregard a court order when we feel helpless during a divorce. But when you violate a child custody court order in Muskogee, Oklahoma, you could take a bad situation and make it much worse.
Here is what you need to know about violating a child custody court order in Oklahoma.
Violation of a Child Custody Court Order Can be a Felony
If a parent violates a child custody court order with the intent to deprive the lawful custodian of the custody of the child, that parent can be charged with a felony. The crime is punishable by a fine up to $5,000. Okla. Stat. tit. 21 § 567A.
This can happen if a parent willfully fails to return a child to the other parent either after visitation or in violation of the shared custody agreement regarding the child. In extreme cases, one parent may abduct the child and leave or attempt to leave the state with the child in violation of the custody agreement and order.
The law provides a defense for an offender who reasonably believes that the violation of the custody order was necessary to protect the child from physical, mental or emotional danger and the offender notifies the local law enforcement agency nearest where the child’s custodian lives. It is the prosecutor’s burden to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant was not justified in violating a child custody order. If the prosecution fails in that burden, the defendant must be found not guilty.
In this case, sometimes the child is removed from the child’s lawful custodian by a law enforcement officer and can be held in emergency or protective custody unless there is a specific court order that requires the law enforcement officer to return the child to the lawful custodian.
In order to secure a conviction for child custody court order under this statute, the prosecution must prove that the parent or person knowingly violated an order of an Oklahoma court granting custody of a child to another person, agency, or institution; and with the intent to deprive that person, agency, or institution of the custody of the child. (OUJI-CR 4-44)
Courts Have the Power To Impose All Sorts of Sanctions
Judges do not like to have any of their orders — including orders for child support, custody and visitation — violated. To that end, courts have a tool called “direct or indirect contempt.” While most often a court will order sanctions for the violation of a court order, it sometimes also issue a contempt order.
A contempt order can be used to punish, but it can also be used to coerce a defendant’s behavior.
In Oklahoma, a court may issue a direct or indirect contempt order and impose up to $500 in fines, or incarceration in the county jail for up to six months — or both a fine and incarceration, at the court’s discretion. Okla. Stat. tit. 21 § 566. Any Oklahoma court has the power to enforce an order for child support, visitation or any other court order regarding minor children, and is empowered to punish a person when they fail to comply with the orders of any court regarding minor children. A child custody order is enforceable as long as the child remains a minor an until another custody order is issued by that court.
Proving Indirect Civil Contempt
In order to prove indirect civil contempt, a prosecutor must prove:
- the order was entered, filed and served against the parent;
- the parent had actual knowledge of the existence of the order;
- the order was granted by default after prior due process notice to the parent, or
- the parent was present in court at the time the order was pronounced; and
- the parent has not complied with the order.
If the prosecutor proves all the above, that is prima facie evidence of an indirect civil contempt of court. Okla. Stat. tit. 21 § 566.1. A judgment of indirect contempt requires proof that the disobedience of the court’s order was willful. Okla. Stat. tit. 21 §565.
Not only may the court order imprisonment or a fine, but the court may also order that the defendant attend alternative programs such as counseling, treatment, educational training, social skills training or other appropriate programs.
Running afoul of a court’s custody order can impact a parent’s life in many ways. If that has happened to you and you need or want help, it is just a phone call away. An experienced Muskogee criminal defense attorney can help.
Free Consultation: Muskogee Defense Attorney
We are here to help you. The capable, experienced Muskogee criminal defense attorneys at the Wirth Law Office will carefully explain the process and alternatives you face, and are willing and able to explore all possible defenses and fight all out for you. Get the help you need.
Call an experienced Muskogee criminal offense attorney today at (918) 913-0725, or toll-free at 1 (888) 447-7262 (Wirth Law). If you prefer, you can use the box in the upper right-hand corner of this page to send a brief question or message.