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Father hasn't seen children in 3 years; grandparents have custody

Your Question:
I am a divorced father of 2 girls. I am in CA and they live in CO with their grandparents. When I divorced my wife, she and the kids stayed in CO, while I relocated to CA, and she became 'unfit.' Her parents fought for custody and won, stating that they couldn't find me and didn't know how to reach me. When I finally found out, I fought but to no avail. The court didn't want to remove the children, saying that they were 'thriving' in CO and didn't want to cause any maladjustment, should they relocate with me to CA. The grandparents have the power of money on their side, and I'm broke, and now have $25,000 in legal fees to pay off and I still don't have my children. I have been faithfully paying my support, as it is automatically taken from my check. However, I was granted visitation priviledges. Well, I still have not seen my children since 2002 and the grandparents run interference when I call to speak to them. How can I enforce the visitation? Can I just show up at their house on the appointed visitation day, at the specified time with court papers in hand and a sheriff and demand to see them? Keep in mind that I am in another state and would have to travel far to get to them.... please advise!

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My Answer:

Thanks for writing.

From what you wrote, it sounds like you willingly moved away from the kids. This is an important lesson for any parent-- if you wish to remain very involved with your kids, do your best to stay close to them! I don't know the particulars of your history, but from a court's perspective, it'll probably conclude that it was your choice to move so far away.

That's not a judgment, per se, but rather a factual conclusion that a court likely made when it decided to keep the kids with the grandparents.

On to your actual question... how to enforce the visitation?

If you have court orders that specify when/where you are to pick up the kids, then you can simply show up and expect orders to be followed. If you haven't seen them since 2002, then I would suggest you send a certified letter to the grandparents, advising that beginning on July 20, 2005, you will be exercising parenting time with your kids, pursuant to court orders made on XX/XX/XXXX.

Then, just show up when you're supposed to see them. I would encourage you to have a witness and/or a voice recorder, just in case there is an altercation.

If the kids are not made available to you, make a police report. Don't expect them to do anything about enforcing the orders, for cops don't want to be ripping kids from one adult and handing them to another adult. Just file a report and personally document everything that happened.

I've heard this tip, too, for being able to prove that you were there (if the kids aren't made available). Go to the nearest store/restaurant/gas station right before the pick-up, and buy something so you'll have a receipt with a date and time on it. Then, wait around for the kids for half an hour at the pick-up place. Then buy something else at that same place. This will show (if you ever end up back in court) that you waited in the area for half an hour. It doesn't PROVE that you were actually at the pick-up, but really, what judge will conclude that you flew 1000 miles just to buy a pack of gum and a Coke, 30 minutes apart?

If the kids are made available to you, pursuant to your court orders, then you're done.

If not, it may take a few attempts to see your kids before a court will take you seriously on modifying custody or holding the grandparents in contempt.

Finally, if you haven't seen your kids in 2002, despite your attempts to do so, it's a safe bet that the grandparents have probably been saying some bad stuff about you. I would suggest that you consult with a child psychologist BEFORE you see the kids, so you can prepare yourself on how to act towards them and how to explain your absence. That insight will be especially useful if they've been programmed against you.

Good luck.


This website gives common sense advice that is not intended to act as legal guidance nor psychological guidance. The author is neither an attorney nor licensed psychologist. For specific legal guidance or specific psychological guidance, consult with a licensed professional.

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