After divorce with children, the custody order is the cornerstone of your co-parenting relationship. But what happens when one parent disregards the court order and consistently misses visitation, arrives late for transfers or limits contact with the other parent during his or her time?
Regardless of the specific issues, try these strategies if your child’s other parent does not abide by an existing custody order.
Keep careful notes
Document each instance when the other parent violates the custody plan. Common examples include not letting you see the child during your visitation time, picking the child up or dropping off at the wrong time or location, traveling on a long vacation without notice and failing to show up for planned visitation. Write down the date, time, action or inaction and how it violated the parenting agreement. When you communicate with the other parent about visits and custody transfers, do so in writing.
Review your parenting plan
Carefully reread the parenting time order or agreement to make sure you understand the terms. Sometimes, the plan simply indicates reasonable visitation rather than providing a schedule. In this case, request parenting time in writing for a specific date and time if you are the noncustodial parent. Ask for a response by a certain date, especially if he or she ignores your emails and texts. Document when and why the other parent denies visitation. If the parenting plan follows a set schedule, do everything you can to follow that schedule accurately.
File a court action
When the other parent does not comply with the parenting plan after written requests, you may file a Verified Petition for Contempt. Be ready to reference the documentation you have been recording about the instances of contempt. After you file this petition, the court will schedule a hearing at which the judge should order both parents to follow the terms of the court-ordered parenting plan. If the judge is convinced that one parent is in contempt, the offending parent can be sanctioned by the court, including paying the non-offending parent’s attorney fees. If he or she subsequently fails to obey the order of the court, the judge can order additional sanctions, even jail time.
A specific parenting time order with a detailed visitation schedule is in the best interest of all involved. You can also request a modification to your current plan if it does not fit your needs.