Ask a Divorce Lawyer: Should I have to pay for medical bills and daycare expenses I wasn’t aware of?

Question: My ex-girlfriend, the mother of our 5-year-old son, will not consult me regarding any decisions for our son. We have joint custody so I assume that means we have to consult about decisions affecting our son. 

She’s had dental work done for our son, has changed daycare services, etc., all without telling me beforehand. And she expects me to pay for services that I was not aware of. 

Can I file contempt of court on her for not following the court order?

 

Answer:

Legal custody refers to the parent’s legal right and responsibility to make decisions for a minor child pertaining to health, education, and religion. During periods of physical placement, the placement parent has the right and responsibility to make routine daily decisions regarding the child’s care consistent with the major decisions that are agreed upon by the parties.  I need more information regarding the decisions she is making without your consent to be able to give you a better answer to your question.  I would need to know the basis for switching the daycare and whether there is a provision in your Order including daycare selection as a custody decision.  If the dental work was necessary as opposed to elective and she had placement of the child at the time, she did not violate the joint custody provisions. 

If she is intentionally violating the Court Order, yes, you couple petition the Court for a contempt finding.  If the Court finds her in Contempt of Court, she will be Ordered to comply with the Court Order, ie consult with you prior to making legal custody decisions, or face the Court imposed punishment which could be a fine, a jail sentence, or both.  Some Courts will also require the person to pay the court costs and your attorneys fees—but do not bank on it. 

You should contact a domestic litigation attorney licensed in your jurisdiction and describe all of the decision making she is unilaterally making and whether this warrants a contempt motion.  Cordell & Cordell has an office located in Milwaukee.

 

Erica Christian is an Associate Attorney in the Milwaukee, Wisconsin, office of Cordell & Cordell, P.C. She is licensed to practice law in the state of Wisconsin. She is a member of the Wisconsin Bar Association, the Family Law Section and the Children’s Law Section.

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