Other Parent Doesn’t Return My Child Back to Me on Time in Massachusetts: What To Do?

Child custody orders can come with complications. While courts aim to create a schedule that is ideal for the child and practical for the parents, some parents may violate child custody and visitation orders. One issue that comes up frequently pertains to returning children on time. Many parents wonder, “If my child’s other parent doesn’t return my child back to me on time in Massachusetts, what can I do?”

Parenting Time Interference

It’s important for parents to respect the terms of their custody agreement. Whenever a parent does not adhere to their child custody and visitation order, they have committed parenting time interference.

Things to Consider When the Other Parent Is Late

The main thing to consider if the other parent returns your child late is to consider the facts and circumstances of the incident. Some questions to consider (and that the court will consider if it results in a court case):

  • Is this a recurring incident?
  • How late was the parent?
  • Do you fear that the other parent will eventually keep the child permanently, breaking the custodial and visitation orders?
  • Do you have a contentious relationship with the other parent?
  • Have they threatened you or threatened to take the child away from you?
  • Is there a reason for the tardiness, such as traffic?

What to Do When the Other Parent Is Late

Before making a decision on what course of action is appropriate if your ex-spouse is late returning your child, you should stop and consider the facts of the incident. If it is a minor incident, such as an isolated occurrence where the other parent was a few minutes late because they lost track of time, it may not be worth spending the extra time and money to go to the police or the court.

If it is a recurring incident where the other parent is intentionally hours or even days late, it may be worth taking additional action, especially if the other parent has a history of aggression or law-breaking and your relationship with them is quarrelsome. Some of your options to rectify the situation include:

  • Speak with your ex-partner. Your child’s other parent may not know you are worried about your child’s well-being when they are late. They may not see it as a serious issue. If you communicate about the problem, it may help resolve it.
  • Consider an alternative schedule. It’s possible that the current parenting schedule makes it difficult for the other parent to return your child at the designated time. You can also consider altering who will be responsible for pick up and drop off.
  • Contact an attorney. If coming to an agreement is not possible, or if this is a recurring issue, you may want to contact your attorney and potentially return to court. The courts can alter or reduce parenting time.
  • Call the police. If the parent is egregiously and perpetually keeping your child away from you, your last resort would be to contact law enforcement. They will report the interference as a kidnapping. If the other parent never returns the child or doesn’t respond to being contacted, law enforcement can issue an Amber Alert to help track the parent and child across state lines.

Suggested Tips if the Other Parent Is Late Returning the Child

If your child’s other parent is beginning to return the child late, but you are not ready to go to court or the police in Massachusetts, there are steps you can take that will help you later if the issue escalates into something more serious:

  • Document everything. Keep records of texts, emails, or phone calls, if possible. You will also want to write down the details of each incident, including when it happened, how late the parent was, and the parent’s reason for the delay.
  • Consider a mediator. Mediation can be effective and quicker in helping resolve a dispute than taking the issue to court.
  • Remember the child’s safety. If you think your child is in danger, contact law enforcement immediately. If you don’t believe they are in danger but you still have concerns, law enforcement can still perform a wellness check.


Q: What Is It Called When a Parent Keeps a Child From the Other Parent?

A: When a parent keeps a child from the other parent, this is called parenting time interference. This can take different forms, such as refusing to return the child, returning the child later than scheduled, or moving the child to another location without legal permission or justification. Parenting time interference is a serious matter and can result in criminal and civil penalties.

Q: What If My Ex Refuses to Return My Child?

A: If your ex refuses to return your child at the appropriate time, remain calm. Document every detail of the incident, including when it happened, your ex-partner’s reasons for doing so, and when they were supposed to return the child. If you are concerned about the child’s safety or if your ex is threatening to never return the child, contact law enforcement immediately.

Q: At What Age Can a Child Refuse to See a Parent in Massachusetts?

A: A child can refuse to see a parent when they become an adult. In Massachusetts, children can express their desires regarding how much time they spend with each parent. However, there is no age at which this will control the outcome. Instead, the courts will listen to the child’s preferences and the reasoning behind them. They may include this in the factors they consider when determining child custody and visitation, especially if the child is older.

Q: Can I Keep My Kids From Their Other Parent?

A: You cannot keep your kids from their other parent if there is a legal child custody or visitation agreement in place. Violating this order can result in legal consequences, including your own parenting rights being in jeopardy and being held in contempt of court. However, if you are concerned for your child’s safety, contact law enforcement and seek immediate legal counsel for your next steps.

Contact Farias Family Law, P.C.

If you have a custody agreement in place that the other parent is not adhering to, you have options to remedy the situation. Contact Farias Family Law, P.C., for help.

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