What Happens if Someone Doesn’t Follow the Parenting Plan?
Divorce can be one of the most stressful and challenging times of your life, especially if minor children are involved.
Part of the divorce decree between spouses with shared children is a custody arrangement, including parenting time and decision-making authority. However, if one parent isn’t following the court-ordered parenting plan, the relationship between co-parents can quickly deteriorate, ultimately affecting the children.
So what happens if one parent isn’t following the parenting plan from the Colorado family law courts? Depending on your specific circumstances, you may have a few options, and the experienced divorce lawyers at Marquez Law can help you explore them. Call us today for a consultation.
Are Parenting Plan Orders Mandatory?
Yes, parenting plans are entered as a judgment in a Colorado family law court. Therefore, they are a court order and thus legally binding for all parties. Violating the court-ordered parenting plan violates a court order, and legal action may be taken against the parent who does not follow the parenting plan.
In general, anyone under a court’s jurisdiction is required to follow the language of the court order to the letter of the law. But in the case of co-parenting, there may be times when the needs of the child, or an unavoidable schedule conflict of one parent, necessitates a change in the parenting plan.
No parenting plan can account for every eventuality until the child turns 18, so ideally, you and your co-parent should be able to operate with some flexibility within the dictates of the parenting plan.
However, if you are having trouble getting the other parent to cooperate with the parenting plan and you cannot resolve it yourself, then your child custody lawyer may be able to help you resolve the issues.
When Would a Parenting Time Order Need to Be Changed?
Sometimes, the parenting order may need to be changed to accommodate a small shift in the schedule of one parent or the other.
Perhaps one parent has a pressing work project and needs to work through the weekend, but it’s their weekend with the child. In this case, the parents may simply swap weekend parenting time without the need to involve the court.
A flexible parenting agreement, one that is constructed to allow adaptivity as long as both parties agree, typically covers many situations like this.
Perhaps one parent wants to take the child on a vacation, but the only time they can schedule it overlaps with the other parent’s time. Another occasion when a parenting time arrangement could change would be in the case of a school event, such as an overnight field trip or a sports competition.
The custody arrangement may allow for “make-up” parenting time, or it could allow one parent to refuse to give up any of their allotted time. There could even be reasons one parent would forbid the child from participating in an event or going on vacation. In this scenario, the parents may need to appeal to the court due to an unresolvable conflict.
Some parenting plans are constructed to be inviolable — the parents must adhere to the terms of the order no matter what comes up. A parent may rely on the order to protect their child, either from the other parent or from associates or family members of the other parent.
In these cases, the parenting plan can be changed only with a court order, likely after a hearing before a family law judge.
What to Do if the Other Parent Isn’t Following the Parenting Plan
When one parent flouts the terms of the custody order, whether by not picking up or dropping off the child on time, refusing to give access to the child, or otherwise violating the terms, it can be frustrating for the other parent. At the least, it’s inconvenient; at the worst, it could upset or even endanger the child.
It’s usually best to try to work with the other parent if they are consistently breaking the custody arrangement. Try reminding them that it’s a court order or even asking if there is a scheduling reason for the noncompliance. However, when patience and understanding don’t work, you have other options.
Call Local Law Enforcement
If it’s an emergency situation, you may choose to call local law enforcement to enforce the court order. For example, if you have a strict parenting arrangement, such as a “stick-to” order, then there could be valid reasons why the child may be unsafe if the order isn’t followed.
The police have the authority to enforce a court order, but before they contact the noncompliant parent, they will probably ask you to produce a signed copy of the court order.
Calling the police could upset your child, so before you take this route, weigh the benefits of ensuring that the custody order is followed against the potential effect it could have on the child.
Motion for Contempt
If you’re unable to get the other parent to cooperate on your own, your next step would be to have your Colorado child custody lawyer file a motion for contempt with the county family law court, petitioning the court to enforce the order.
The noncompliant parent could face sanctions (paying the other party’s attorney’s fees and court costs for enforcing the order). A motion for contempt may be filed for physical noncompliance, such as withholding the child, or for financial noncompliance, such as not paying for schooling costs for a minor child.
The motion for contempt must state the specific ways in which the noncompliant parent is violating the parenting plan. Then, the noncompliant parent is served with your motion and is given a date to appear in court. The court determines if there has been a violation of the custody order or visitation without a good reason.
If the court determines that the custody order has been violated (if it agrees with your motion of contempt), then it may make one or more of the following judgments:
Make-up or compensatory time for the compliant parent
Parenting counseling for the noncompliant parent (which that parent must pay for)
Fine of up to $500 (paid by the noncompliant parent to the compliant parent)
Requirement that the noncompliant parent post security or bond to ensure future compliance
Requirement that the noncompliant parent pay the other party’s attorney fees
Possible jail time for contempt of court
Choosing not to follow the parenting plan means choosing to defy a court order. A judge will often look unfavorably on someone who knowingly violates court orders without a good reason, so it’s unlikely that the noncompliant parent will get off scot-free unless they have a valid excuse for not following the parenting plan order.
Motion Concerning Parenting Time
A motion for noncompliance with a parenting time order may be resolved faster than a motion for contempt. It has fewer procedural and legal requirements than a motion for contempt, so it may be processed and reach a judge faster.
Furthermore, the motion concerning parenting time may allow you greater flexibility and additional relief that a motion for contempt would not.
A Colorado family law judge may grant make-up parenting time or additional parenting time for the complaining parent or even choose to modify the custody arrangement. They may also order family counseling for everyone, not just the noncompliant parent.
Do You Need Help with Child Custody Compliance in Colorado?
Co-parenting can be frustrating, especially when the other parent chooses not to follow the court-ordered parenting time or decision-making decrees for your child after a divorce.
If you’re struggling to come to an agreement with your child’s other parent, or if you cannot get them to cooperate with the parenting plan on your own, we can help.
Marquez Law is a legal firm focusing on family law, divorce, and custody cases. We’re on your side to help you fight for your child’s best interests, no matter how contentious the split may be. Contact us today to schedule a consultation!