Enforcing Visitation When Denied Court-Ordered Parenting Time
When your ex denies you visitation on your court-ordered schedule, it can be an incredibly frustrating experience — particularly if it becomes a pattern. You may be left feeling hopeless and wonder exactly what you can do.
Many non-custodial parents simply give up at this point; however, that is not the solution.
You need to continue to fight for whatever rights the court granted to you through all legal channels that are available. You also need to avoid making common mistakes that could wind you up in trouble.
Document any missed visitation
Maintain a calendar of any time you were denied visitation, no matter he reason. Also keep copies of any correspondence with your ex, which means keeping things civil on your end. Any texts, emails or letters should be kept professional and on topic.
This will help you build a case if you end up in court seeking enforcement of your order, and helps prove that you made every attempt to exercise your visitation rights.
Solve the issue as adults
Ideally, if you and your spouse are committed to your children and effective co-parenting, you will be able to resolve any minor issues before they escalate. Before going to higher authorities, attempt to remedy the issue at the lowest possible rung — between you and your ex.
When there is occasional confusion or conflicting schedules, try to set up additional days to make up for any lost time. This is the most effective method for cutting down on future tension, even though it may be extremely frustrating at the time.
Co-parenting does take flexibility, and if there hasn’t been a history of problems or there is a potential legitimate excuse, at least try to work things out amicably before jumping to the next level.
Send a strongly-worded letter
If your ex will not cooperate in making up missed visitation, sending an official letter is often enough to get them to knock off the impetuous behavior.
Make it clear that you are willing to resolve the issue outside of the courtroom and avoid that extra headache, but any denial of the court-ordered visitation must cease immediately and any missed days must be made up.
This shows that you aren’t going to be bullied and have your rights pushed aside, and also proves that a good-faith attempt was made to resolve the issue without court interference if you eventually have to pursue enforcement.
Use the courts
If you are unable to resolve the issue of your ex denying your parenting time through any other means, you can raise the issue before a judge. This process is a little more extensive, though if you are in the right and your ex is in the wrong, it can be a very effective method for permanently fixing the problem.
Through filing a Motion to Enforce, you are able to ask the court to intervene and require your ex to comply with the order. It is also 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 your ex if they are found to be guilty of willfully disobeying the visitation schedule.
This is why documentation is crucial to build your case. If you are able to show when the order was ignored, any excuses given by your ex and your repeated attempts to resolve the problem before presenting it to court, you will have a good chance to successfully convince the judge to take action.
Every attempt should be made to keep things between you and your ex as cordial as possible for the sake of the kids, so only resort to the courts after you have exhausted every other available option.
Do NOT stop paying child support
Many people feel that if they are being denied the right to their scheduled visitation, then they shouldn’t have to pay their court-ordered child support. Unfortunately, windmills do not work that way.
Just because your rights are being infringed when your ex ignores a court order does not give you the right to return the favor. You must continue to follow the child support obligation while you attempt to resolve the issues with visitation, and failure to do so can result in serious consequences.
Arrearages can build up, your accusations of contempt against your ex can be thrown right back at you and there is even a possibility of fines or jail time for willful non-payment. It may not be fair, but you must take the high road to succeed in convincing the courts that you are in the right.
Judges have very little tolerance for refusing to pay child support, and without an order stating the obligation has changed, you must follow what is written in your decree.
Do NOT take matters into your own hands
Simply taking the children for any period of time beyond what is prescribed by your court order can have even more serious ramifications. Despite the fact that you may feel you are “owed” extra time due to your spouse’s refusal to let you exercise your visitation, it can be considered parental kidnapping.
You risk arrest and your spouse can make a very strong case to have your visitation modified to require supervision or your amount of time reduced if they decide to call the police and file a motion with the courts.
While many of these options clearly do not offer instantaneous results, it is always in your best interests to work within the bounds of the law.