When going through a divorce, determining parenting time (also known as visitation) is a major consideration, and involves many factors such as the geographical proximity of the parents, the age of the child or children, and potential limitations such as work schedules, medical issues or other special needs of the parents and / or children. The final parenting agreement or parenting order spells out the details of how parenting time is shared between the two adults. However, just because both sides agree to the parenting agreement, either through their mutual negotiations or through the determination of the order from a judge, sometimes one or both adults do not follow their parenting agreements or orders. Here are two very common examples:
- Failure to exercise parenting time or contact is when a parent or the non-guardian with contact is not available or does not show up to care for their child when he or she is expected to.
- Denial of parenting time or contact is when a parent prevents the other parent or the non-guardian with contact from spending the agreed upon time with their child.
Parenting Agreement: What You Can Do
If you find yourself in either of these two situations, there are legal steps you can take. The court can enforce the parenting agreement or order and impose consequences as a result of failure to comply. However, before the court can enforce an agreement or order you must file a motion with the court. The motion process for enforcing the parenting agreement can take time and be costly. Consider this option only if the following conditions are occurring:
The other person:
- fails repeatedly to follow the specified parenting order or agreement, OR
- has failed to follow the specified parenting order or agreement which resulted in you and/or your child/children experiencing extreme inconvenience and cost, AND
- you have attempted to engage the other person in dialogue about the occurrence(s) but have been unable to reach an agreement.
While the court can impose consequences as a result of failing to follow the parenting agreement or order, it cannot force a parent to be involved with their children. If a parent consistently refuses to participate in parenting time, seeking a modification of the parenting agreement or order may be the best course of action.
However, it’s important to remember that a parent’s failure to exercise their parenting time may not be completely understood by the children. Depending on the parent’s actions, the child or children may suffer emotional trauma and develop feelings of being unloved or unwanted. When a parent is failing to exercise their designated parenting time, the overall goal should be to find strategies through mediation and mental health counseling that bring the parent back into the child’s life.
Parenting Agreement: What the Court Can Do
If your independent efforts have not proven successful in reestablishing parenting time, and you have decided to undertake the court process, a judge, after reviewing your motion, can order one or more outcomes, including:
- The adults must participate in mediation or another form of dispute resolution.
- The adults, and/or the children / child must attend family counselling or other mental health programs.
- Either one or both of the adults must attend parental education classes.
- Make-up parenting time is awarded to the aggrieved parent.
- Reimbursement for costs incurred to file a motion to enforce parenting time (attorney’s fees, court costs, and other related expenses).
If mediation, family counselling, or other mental health services are ordered by the judge, the court can decide how the adults will pay for the service.
Many divorced couples do encounter issues with parenting time – either because of changes in their work schedules, geographic location, illness or injury, or other responsibilities. However, it’s important to remember that, for the wellbeing of your children, all parents should make best efforts to communicate in a civil manner with one-another and attempt to arrive at solutions for child visitation. With conscientious effort, many couples can arrive at parenting agreements that are satisfactory to both them and the children they are responsible for.
Contact Laura Monty Law
If you or your spouse will be filing for divorce in Northern Colorado or reside in the Larimer County or Fort Collins region, and want to explore a variety of divorce options, do not hesitate to contact Laura Monty Law. We provide collaborative divorce representation, divorce mediation services, legal advising for uncontested divorces and contested divorces, and a full array of divorce and family law services to meet your family’s needs. We strongly believe in taking a compassionate approach to family law, and recognize that every situation is unique.