Are you in contempt if you don’t use the parenting time?

Divorce Attorney Angela FoyQuestion:

Are you legally bound to use the parenting time if you do not want to? It’s in the parenting plan that each spouse has X amount of parenting time, but if one spouse does not wish to use all of their parenting time are they in contempt of the parenting plan?



When a court sets a parenting schedule in a custody and placement order, it is typically required to set a schedule that allows the children to have regularly occurring, meaningful periods of physical placement with each parent that maximizes the amount of time the child may spend with each parent.  I do not practice in your jurisdiction, so I can only speak in generalities.

If you do not plan to use significant time awarded to you, it is almost always better to be proactive and, at a minimum, let the other parent know. Do not just not show up for your time.  Many times, parents are able to work out adjustments ahead of time but they need to communicate.

Each custody and placement order is different to address the needs of each family.  In most jurisdictions, the order may be modified if one parent continuously does not exercise time that is awarded to that parent.  It is essentially a “use it or lose it” rule, which allows a court to modify an order at any time if it finds that a parent has repeatedly and unreasonably failed to exercise periods of physical placement awarded under an order that allocates specific times.

Additionally, some orders also have additional provisions that may create penalties for a failure to exercise time with the children, such as assessing a fee penalty or the cost of finding alternative care for the children.

The best way for your to approach your parenting time depends on many factors including your specific circumstances and the specific rules in your jurisdiction.  I do not practice in Washington, so I cannot inform you as to the state’s specific laws.  You should discuss your case with a domestic litigation attorney in your jurisdiction.


Angela Foy is an Associate Attorney in the Milwaukee, Wisc., office of Cordell & Cordell where her primary practice is exclusively in the area of domestic relations. Ms. Foy is licensed to practice in the state of Wisconsin, the U.S. District Court, and the Eastern District of Wisconsin. 

 Ms. Foy received her Bachelor’s and Master’s Degrees from the University of Notre Dame. She then continued on to receive her Juris Doctor from Marquette University.

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