Contempt For Not Following A Parenting Plan

Is Your Ex Not Allowing Parenting Time with Your Child?

If your ex is not allowing parenting time your child, can you hold them in contempt? The short answer is yes. Everything in the field of family law often draws a response from the lawyer which sounds like “it depends.” The reason for the “it depends” relates to the parenting order itself and whether clarity exists. One cannot be held in contempt if there is not a clear order lacking ambiguity.

When Problems Arise Look to the Parenting Agreement

Parenting agreements today are different. They are very specific, setting out days and times, detailing each holiday, and essentially every detail of parenting. It seems overwhelming at first and if parents are getting along and able to work things out, then great, you are not required to follow the parenting plan. There is no “parenting plan” police that goes around and monitors whether you are following the drafted plan. But, if a problem arises, then everyone can fall back on the parenting schedule like a roadmap, and then it must be followed.

Is There a Clear Order Detailing the Behavior Required of a Parent?

Parents who cannot see their children when they want, oftentimes come back into court and ask the judge to hold the other parent in contempt. The judge will do that, but only if there is a clear order detailing the behavior that the other parent violated. What does that mean?

Assessing Whether There is a Violation

Think about the problem and assess whether there is an actual violation (is there a court order, clearly written), or does the parenting agreement not address the issue at all? One problem that came up this past summer was the COVID problem. Kids weren’t necessarily going to school, so when the parenting agreement says that dad picks up Henry from school on Friday, some parents relied on a strict interpretation of the parenting agreement and wouldn’t let dad pick up from their home, since the agreement said the pick up was “from school.”

Was Parent Willful in their Failure to Comply?

You first must have a clear order that establishes the violation, and the second part is whether the parent was “willful” in their failure to comply. The first element is your burden of proof and the second element is the other parent’s proof. Once the court finds that there is a clear and unambiguous court order, the burden switches to the other person to show that they essentially had a good reason for violating the order. If the court believes there was a good reason, then no contempt, even though the order was violated. If the court does not believe that the violation had a good faith basis for failure to comply, then contempt.

  • How about hanging out on the street corner drinking beer with their friends?
  • Do you “force” them to come in at a reasonable hour?
  • “Force” them to eat their veggies and go to bed so they can get up for school?
  • “Force” them to do their homework?

Enforcing Your Parenting Plan with a Contempt Action

Parenting times must be complied with and it is interesting how some judges do not hold a parent in contempt for it. It only sets up the non-complying parent to keep doing it and eventually, the other parent has no parenting time. But if you want to fight for your rights, unfortunately, the only way to do it is in court. Some parents are successful in getting the police involved to force court orders and although the family law court frowns on having the police at the door for parenting exchanges, sometimes it is the only way.

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