What Happens if You Don’t Respond to Child Custody Papers?

May 28, 2024by Adam Sacks

Ignoring Child Custody Papers

Curious about the potential repercussions of disregarding child custody papers? Here are some potential consequences.

Default Judgement

A default judgment occurs when one party in a legal dispute fails to take action or respond to the legal proceedings. Not responding to custody papers can have significant consequences for both parents and, most importantly, the well-being of the child involved.

If the respondent fails to acknowledge the custody papers within the designated timeframe or neglects to submit a response, the petitioner can request a default judgment from the court. This means that the court can proceed with the custody case without the input or presence of the non-responsive parent. The court will make determinations regarding custody and visitation arrangements based solely on the information provided by the petitioner.


Default Judgement


Loss of Parenting Rights

Neglecting to respond to child custody papers allows the other parent to present their case unopposed. The non-responsive parent effectively relinquishes their opportunity to seek joint or sole custody, outline visitation rights, or make arguments regarding what they believe should happen with the child.

By not participating in the process, the non-responsive parent may inadvertently reinforce the perception that they are disinterested, unreliable, or incapable of responsibly caring for the child’s needs. This could further sway the court’s decision in favor of the responsive parent, causing the non-responsive parent to lose their parental rights altogether.

Monetary Penalties

When you fail to participate in the proceedings or demonstrate disregard for the legal process, the court may hold you responsible for covering the legal expenses of the other party. This can be a considerable financial burden, as attorney fees can quickly accumulate.

Not responding to child custody papers can lead to other legal actions and consequences, such as being held in contempt of court. Contempt charges can carry substantial monetary fines.

Legal Ramifications of Ignoring Child Custody Papers

In some jurisdictions, ignoring child custody papers can even have criminal implications. Avoiding or evading court proceedings may be viewed as contempt of court or a violation of a court order, both of which can lead to serious consequences.

Penalties for contempt of court vary, but may include fines, probation, or even imprisonment. Repeatedly disregarding court orders or failing to respond to multiple attempts at service can worsen the situation, putting the non-responsive party at risk of facing further legal actions.


Legal Ramifications of Ignoring Child Custody Papers


Enforcement Actions if You Don’t Respond to Child Custody Papers

Issuance of Bench Warrant: If you fail to respond to child custody papers or repeatedly ignore court orders, the court may issue a bench warrant against you. A bench warrant authorizes law enforcement to arrest you and bring you before the court. This extreme measure is taken to ensure compliance and ensure that the child’s best interests are protected.

Modification of Orders: By not responding to child custody papers, you effectively forfeit your chance to present your side of the story. The court may issue temporary or permanent orders regarding child custody, visitation, and support based solely on the other party’s arguments.

Loss of Parental Rights: If the court determines that your absence or lack of involvement poses a threat to the child’s well-being, they may grant sole custody to the other party or even terminate your parental rights entirely.

Contempt of Court

Contempt of court refers to the act of intentionally disobeying or disregarding the orders, rules, or orders of the court. In the case of child custody papers, failing to respond is considered a violation of the court’s authority and may be viewed as contemptuous behavior. This is particularly true if the custodial parent can prove that the non-responsive parent was aware of the court proceedings and intentionally ignored them. [1]

Child custody matters are of utmost importance to the court system. Apart from the potential legal penalties, such behavior can have negative consequences on the parent-child relationship, adding stress and uncertainty to an already emotionally charged situation.

Negative Impact on the Parent-Child Relationship

Children may interpret their parent’s lack of response as a sign of disregard for their well-being and feelings, leading to feelings of abandonment or rejection.

By not participating in this process, parents relinquish their opportunity to contribute to decisions about their child’s upbringing, including matters related to education, healthcare, discipline, and extracurricular activities. This lack of involvement can make the child feel as if their opinions and preferences do not matter, which can significantly strain the parent-child bond.

When parents do not actively engage in custody proceedings, they may not have the chance to present their side of the story or advocate for their preferred parenting arrangements. This can result in the court making decisions that may not align with the parent’s desires or the child’s best interests. Such outcomes may generate resentment, bitterness, and frustration, further challenging the parent-child relationship.


Negative Impact on the Parent-Child Relationship


Contact Sacks & Sacks law firm today to schedule a consultation and get the help you need with your child custody case.



What are child custody papers?

Child custody papers are legal documents that outline the arrangements for child custody and visitation rights in cases of divorce, separation, or other disputes between parents. They include information about each parent’s desire for custody, visitation schedules, and any proposed child support arrangements. Child custody papers serve as a formal way of establishing the rights and responsibilities of each parent regarding their child’s care, well-being, and living arrangements.

Can I request an extension to respond to child custody papers?

Yes, it is often possible to request an extension to respond to child custody papers. Each jurisdiction may have its own rules and procedures regarding extensions. Typically, you will need to provide a valid reason for needing an extension, such as illness, scheduling conflicts, or the need for additional time to gather necessary information.

Can I still contest child custody even if I haven’t responded to the papers?

While it may be more challenging, it is possible to contest child custody even if you haven’t responded to the initial papers. Failing to respond to the papers can result in the court proceeding without your input, potentially leading to decisions that you may not agree with or that may not be in the best interest of the child. With the guidance of an attorney, you may still be able to present your case, provide evidence, and argue for a custody arrangement that you believe is in your child’s best interest.



[1] 752. General Definition of Contempt. (2020, January 21). https://www.justice.gov/archives/jm/criminal-resource-manual-752-general-definition-contempt#:~:text=Contempt%20of%20court%20is%20an,the%20sovereignty%20have%20been%20delegated.

by Adam Sacks

Adam Sacks is lead Family Law Attorney at Law Offices of Sacks & Sacks, P.A. in Jacksonville, Florida. He has a BA in Psychology from 1994, and received his Juris Doctor Degree in 1999 from the Western Michigan University Cooley Law School.

Sacks and Sacks Law
1646 Emerson St. Suite B Jacksonville, FL 32207

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