You had a plan. You knew how you wanted to spend your parenting time with your child. You were going to pick them up from school, take them home, help them with their homework, cook dinner, and have a quiet evening together, giving you and your child the chance to bond.
While experiences like going to a movie or going to an amusement park with your child matter, these types of quiet moments give you the opportunity to be there for your child, connecting with their daily life.
Many parents can find their plans met with the sounds of the word “no.” Co-parents can find themselves at odds, even with the schedule being hammered out in family courts. You may have a co-parent that follows their own schedule, making it difficult to spend time with your children and be the active parent that you want to be.
You can attempt to work through this situation through co-parenting and communication before the situation escalates. As difficult as it may be to accept, confusion over time does happen, and if they are willing to work through this situation, it may be in the best interests of your shared child to hash it out.
For many parents, this is not an option. You may need to contact your family law attorney. You need to be proactive in wanting your custodial rights enforced. You cannot allow these precious moments to be taken away from you.
Preparation and civil resolutions
In order to start this process, it is important that you document every occurrence that you were denied your court-appointed parenting time. Take screenshots of any text message conversation that details your request, and make sure to keep things civil. As difficult as it may be, it ultimately is beneficial for you to take the high road.
You need to appear as sympathetic as possible, which is why any correspondence between you and your co-parent needs to be kept professional and on-topic.
You may need your family law attorney craft an official letter. The letter needs to include the notion that you are willing to resolve issues outside of the courtroom, but that any denial of court-ordered parenting time must cease immediately with any missed days made up.
You have to stand up for yourself and your role in your child’s life. Your child needs you, and you will not be pushed out of their life. This letter is a stern, good-faith gesture, in an effort to de-escalate the situation, before further action needs to be taken.
Being denied parenting time can be an emotional experience, and you may consider calling the police, in order to enforce the child custody agreement.
Issues with police enforcement
However, many jurisdictions may be hesitant to get involved with a civil dispute, unless there is the potential of criminal action. Even though the law may support the noncustodial or joint custody parent’s right to parenting time, they cannot help them enforce a civil order of custody without the court’s directive, according to Police Magazine.
“The police probably can’t do anything,” said Lt. John Jones, of the Alachua County Sheriff’s Office in Gainesville, Florida. “The deputies will often respond, in order to prevent a domestic dispute from escalating, but usually, we try to tell them on the phone that our hands are tied and we can’t help them enforce a civil order.”
It is important to understand which law enforcement agencies consider custodial interference to be a punishable offense. A parent is guilty of custodial interference if, without good cause, they take, entice, detain, or conceal a child younger than the age of 16 from its parent, guardian, or other lawful custodian. This would occur when the person knowingly has no right to do so and with the intent to hold the child for a period substantially longer than the parent-time or custody period previously awarded by a court competent jurisdiction, according to the Unified Police Department of Greater Salt Lake.
Custodial interference also can involve one parent having actual physical custody of a child younger than the age of 16 preventing another parent, who has been granted custody rights, visitation, or parenting time with their child, by detaining or concealing the child with the intent to deprive the other parent of lawful time spent with the child.
It is considered a Class A misdemeanor, unless the child is removed and taken from one state to another, in which case, it is a felony of the third degree.
If you are forced to go through the legal channels, in order to enforce your court-ordered parenting time, the process can be extensive, but effective.
Through filing a Motion to Enforce, you are asking the court to intervene and require your co-parent to comply with the order. Additionally, it is possible to have the court issue make-up days for any time missed, as well as order the cost of court and attorney fees to be paid by your co-parent, if they are found guilty of willfully disobeying the parenting plan.
Your family law attorney also can recommend contempt charges or a modification of custody, if there is a pattern of noncompliance or severe beach of the order.
Take the high road
With all of these complications regarding your custodial rights, civility can seem challenging, and the idea of continuing to pay child support to a co-parent preventing you from having an active role in your child’s life may seem outrageous.
However, you do not want to give your co-parent any cause for them to use in court. You need to take the high road, pay your child support, and go through the legal channels when all other opportunities to utilize your court-ordered parenting time fail. In doing so, you are showing your child that you are willing to do anything to be an active part of their life.
Dan Pearce is an Online Editor for Lexicon, focusing on subjects related to the legal services of customers, Cordell & Cordell and Cordell Planning Partners. He has written countless pieces on MensDivorce.com, detailing the plight of men and fathers going through the divorce experience, as well as the issues seniors and their families experience throughout the estate planning journey on ElderCareLaw.com. Mr. Pearce has managed websites and helped create content, such as the Men’s Divorce Newsletter and the YouTube series, “Men’s Divorce Countdown.” He also has been a contributor on both the Men’s Divorce Podcast and ElderTalk with TuckerAllen.
Mr. Pearce assisted in fostering a Cordell Planning Partners practice area specific for Veterans, as they deal with the intricacies of their benefits while planning for the future. He also helped create the Cordell Planning Partners Resource Guide and the Cordell Planning Partners Guide to Alternative Residence Options, specific for seniors with questions regarding their needs and living arrangements.