Child custody matters may escalate to a situation when one parent may want to seek police enforcement. This may depend on the situation at hand and whether the parents had been given the order by the court or not. Since these are civil matters, police may not get involved in child custody issues if there is no criminality involved. 

Matters that have been settled by the court and where the court has issued a child custody order, parents are obliged to comply and obey the orders as they are. It does not matter whether the decisions of the court favor you or not, what the court wants to see between the parents is compliance with orders. The court, while deciding on a child custody case, would consider the best interests of the child, and any parent who goes against the orders may be held in contempt of the court. 

In some states such as California and North Carolina, contempt of the court is treated as a violation of the law and thus punishable by the law. While this is the case, when parents violate the court orders to the detriment of the child, the court may use the police department to enforce the orders. 

Will Police Enforce Child Custody?

Police involvement in child custody matters may work against the best interests of the child since it may bring about an emotional disturbance. When a child sees his or her parents being handcuffed by the police for matters to do with him or her, it may damage their emotional and psychological well-being

Therefore, regardless of the number of times that your ex-spouse may keep the child, a couple of days or months, police may not be bothered. In addition to that, it would seem ugly to disrupt the child’s stay at night by getting the police to drag them away from the other parent. 

Parents are, therefore, urged to sort out matters of child custody amicably for the sake of enhancing the best interests of the child. Of course, child custody orders that were agreed upon amicably by both parents may not bring about issues of compliance failure since both parents are concerned with the welfare of the child through a mutual agreement. 

How Can a Parent Violate Custody Orders?

There are many instances when a parent may violate the custody orders that have been issued by the court. When the orders are violated, the court will punish the offender as per the state laws. Some of the situations where a parent would violate custody orders may include:

  • Denying the other parent’s parenting time as indicated in the order. 
  • Custodial interference where the parent willfully and deliberately ignores the court order by taking, detaining, enticing, or concealing the child from the other parent. 
  • When the parent subjects the child to detrimental conditions against what is stated in the order. 
  • When the parent refuses to pay for child support. 
  • Missing frequently on the visitation exchanges. 
  • Drug and substance abuse in front of the child. 
  • Ignoring the child’s needs for school or healthcare. 

Any of these instances among others may warrant the other parent to seek court’s intervention or police involvement where the matters of custody subject the child in danger or emergency. However, most police departments are reluctant to attend to civil matters, and they may only act when the situation is out of hand. 

What Happens When A Parent Violates Custody Orders?

A parent who violates the orders of the court commits a misdemeanor offense as outlined in the laws of the state. Most states have different consequences for parents who are held liable in contempt of the court, but mostly, parents may serve a jail term, pay some fines, or both. 

The consequences of disobeying child custody orders may depend on the extent of damage and, therefore, the judge may involve the police when dealing with serious matters that are beyond the control of the court. 

The state laws may also give the green light to the police to enforce issues of child custody, depending on the language that a judge may use. This is mostly when the parent puts the child in danger or in a state of emergency. 

Should You Involve The Police In Child Custody Matters?

As we mentioned, it would seem ugly to involve the police in civil matters, especially matters that touch on the child or children. This may bring about emotional and psychological disturbance to the child, and that does not work in the best interests of the child. 

For example, if your ex-spouse takes the child and fails to bring him or her back, and does that repeatedly, it would be careless of the other parent to involve the police to enforce a matter that can be solved by the court without interfering with the child. 

In addition to that, police are reluctant when it comes to matters of civil nature unless ordered by the court. 

When To Call Police 

Will Police Enforce Child Custody?
Tell me one, I haven’t already heard…

Police only get involved when matters get to the point where the child is in danger or in a state of emergency. This may include matters to do with domestic violence where the child is the victim, abuse of the child’s rights, or where the parent acts to the detriment of the child. 

In California state, police may enforce a child custody order when a parent is found to have acted contrary to what is in the order. Such is considered to be in contempt of the court and that is equivalent to a violation of the law, and depending on the nature of the violation, that parent may be held in contempt of the court where police may be involved. 


There is no direct answer to this question. It depends on the nature of the violations and the state laws. While child custody violations fall under civil matters, police in most states are reluctant to handle matters relating to child custody and divorce, unless ordered by the court to act and save the child from the behavior of the party that seems to endanger the life of the child or subject him or her to detrimental living conditions. 

While police have the capacity to enforce child custody orders, parents are encouraged to solve matters amicably if the matters can be solved, or through a mediator. For child custody violations by the other parent, it is prudent to approach the matter through the court rather than calling the police since that may have lasting effect on the child or children.