Sometimes, parents going through a divorce or custody dispute can set aside their differences for the benefit of their child(ren). They may be able to agree on matters without the intervention of a judge and work together to co-parent.
However, the unfortunate reality for many families going through a separation is that one parent may refuse to follow the parenting plan, making things more acrimonious than necessary. A parenting plan is a child custody plan that is negotiated by parents, and which may be included in a marital separation agreement or final decree of divorce.
Examples of not following parenting plans might consist of denying parenting time, talking badly about you with or in front of the children, or not attending required counseling sessions. Issues regarding the parenting plan can be even more frequent when one parent is in recovery for alcohol.
Here are 3 things to do if your parenting plan isn’t being followed:
1. Document Everything
Document everything. Keep a blank calendar and make a note of when you are and aren’t supposed to have parenting time. Use it as a shorthand diary and record when the other parent fails to follow the parenting plan. Keep track of details such as when they bring the child to you, or if they misinform you about important events with your child.
Be aware of your ex’s social media, if possible. Social media posts always come with time stamps, which could show that the other party was not following parenting plan agreements. All of this will be useful if you decide to pursue the matter further in court.
2. Address the Situation Outside of Court
First, try to address the situation with your ex outside of court. If you have an attorney, have them write your ex or their lawyer a letter explaining why you think they are not following the parenting plan. Sometimes, the conduct was unintentional, and communicating with them can avoid further confrontation. On the other hand, making it clear that you are not a push-over and that you expect to maintain your full parental rights as agreed upon can go a long way in preventing future breaches.
If you do not have an attorney, and you and your ex are not on friendly terms, then see if your court offers mediation for family law. Sometimes, courthouses will provide dispute resolution to families for free or at a low cost. Dispute resolution is often far less expensive and time-consuming than a formal hearing before a judge.
3. File a Motion for Contempt
If you have tried to be reasonable with your ex, and they are still refusing to follow the parenting plan, then filing for contempt may be a solution. If you serve your ex with a contempt action, he or she will be forced to appear in court and explain to the judge why he or she decided to ignore your prior agreements.
Filing a motion for contempt should be a method of last resort, after multiple breaches by the court. This is because hearings are time-consuming and expensive, and if your ex has disobeyed the parenting plan just once, the judge will likely be lenient. It is best to have a well-documented pattern of contemptuous behavior before filing suit in court.
It can be useful to have an honest conversation (if possible) with your ex and ask them why they refuse to follow the parenting plan. There are different tools to help you document whether or not your ex is following the parenting plan. For example, if your ex has struggled with alcohol use disorder in the past, you may have a difficult time trusting them to be sober around the child. If that is the case, you might consider using a remote alcohol monitoring tool, like Soberlink.
This technology frequently builds a sense of trust and enables parents to work together more effectively for the best interest of the child. There are many other tools and options to make sure the parenting plan is being followed, but if not, try the options discussed above.
Danielle Prado is an experienced family lawyer who is licensed in Texas, England, and Wales. She has been handling family law matters since 2012. Well versed in many different areas of family law, Danielle currently focuses her time on educating people through writing and providing helpful information to people going through divorce. www.soberlink.com