Creating a parenting plan that fairly divides each parent’s time with his or her children is a significant achievement. Often, parents spend weeks negotiating things like where their children will live, which parent will have visitation over certain holidays, and how the children will be transported to and from school or other activities. Once a parenting plan is created, parents may feel like the hard part is over.
But what happens when one parent refuses to stick to the plan? If a parent fails to follow the rules approved by the family law judge, what recourse does the other parent have?
Motions for Contempt
Ideally, parents should work out conflicts or changes to the parenting plan themselves without involving the court. However, when a parent refuses to follow the schedule that was previously worked out, there are some legal options which can force a parent to comply. Usually, this is done through filing a motion for contempt.
This motion, generally filed with the same judge who approved the parenting plan, informs the court that one parent is not in compliance with the plan. The motion will request certain remedies, or types of relief, that can make up for missed time with the children.
The judge can order several different types of relief. First, he or she may order that the compliant parent be allowed extra time with the children. Second, the judge may order that the non-compliant parent be responsible for paying the other parent’s attorney’s fees. Third, the judge may order the non-compliant parent to pay fines as punishment for not following the order. Finally, the judge can also that the non-compliant parent must attend a parenting class or counseling, and may order both parents to attend additional hearings and provide status updates on whether or not the plan is being followed.
If the violations to the parenting plan are serious, the judge has the ability to take more drastic action. For example, if one parent has attempted to abscond with the children by fleeing the state or the country, the judge may revise the parenting plan entirely and prevent that parent from have any custody rights at all. In addition, the judge may order the non-compliant parent to spend time in jail for any severe violations of the plan.
Changing the Parenting Plan
Being held in contempt of court is a serious legal matter, and should not be taken lightly. If the parenting plan is no longer working for parents due to a job loss, change in work schedule, or other significant life changes, the parents should consider attempting to change the parenting plan rather than frequently filing motions for contempt.
Because the parenting plan has been approved by a judge and is considered to be in the best interest of the children, a judge will not approve a change to the plan without good cause. If the parents can show that the changes to the schedule will not negatively affect the children, and if the court believes that both parents will be able to follow the new schedule, then the changes may be approved.
Not every violation of the parenting plan warrants either a change in the plan or a motion for contempt. A few missed dates or late drop-offs are not usually a reason to schedule a hearing in front of the judge. However, a pattern of missed visitation dates or serious violations of the court’s order justifies taking legal action to protect a parent’s custody rights.
At the Law Office of Jonathan M. Galler, P.A., we take violations of parenting plans seriously. Our experienced Florida family law lawyers can help you enforce your rights or modify your parenting plan in a way that fits you and your former partner’s needs.
For more information on all of our family law services, including child custody issues, traditional divorces, legal separations, mediation, and arbitration, contact our office today by calling 561.881.6912.