Divorce and child custody cases may cause upheaval, but at the end of the case, the parents will end up with a court order—called a Parenting Plan–setting out exactly what rights and responsibilities each parent has. This order will detail exactly what residential time or visitation each parent will receive with the child or children. It is not uncommon for parents to be able to coordinate and work together so that they are not always following the exact schedule set out in this order. This is totally permissible so long as both parties agree. The problem arises when one parent refuses to allow the other parent the time that is set out in this order.
Courts take child custody and visitation matters very seriously. A parent’s refusal to return a child at the conclusion of visitation or allow court-ordered visitation in accordance with the schedule in a parenting plan can result in severe penalties. If the other parent in your case has refused to allow you to see the child during your time, you should first attempt communicating with the other parent. In some situations, it may be a simple misunderstanding, especially if the two parents have a history of “deviating” from the residential schedule contained in a parenting plan.
In the event that it is not a misunderstanding, it may be necessary to seek the intervention of the court. One tool that courts use to enforce their child custody and visitation orders is contempt of court. A court may find a parent in contempt if he or she is willfully disobeying the visitation order. A parent held in contempt may face monetary fines or in some rare circumstances, could even face incarceration. Contempt is a useful tool because it allows the violating parent to see how serious the court really is about making sure the parent receives his or her visitation.
If contempt is ineffective, it may be an option to request that the court modify the custody or visitation schedule. To modify a child custody order, the requesting parent must prove that there is a material and substantial change of circumstances such that changing the order is best for the child. If one parent is continually interfering with the other parent’s ability and right to see a child, it is not out of the question for a court to curtail the violating parent’s time with the child. Sometimes this could even mean a change of custody.
We understand that there is nothing more important than making sure you get quality time with your child. Our team has much experience in helping our clients when the other parent is not obeying a custody or visitation order. Call us today at (253) 272-9459 to talk about your child and your goals.