by Erik Carter, JD, Cordell & Cordell, PC
You have an enforceable right to visit with your children. Your right to visitation is second to nothing. Not birthday parties. Not a runny nose. Not the child’s desire to go to park instead of visitation. Nothing. It is the opportunity for you to maintain the bond with your children, to raise them, to parent them, to instill your values in them.
However, if your visitation time were left up to your ex, it occurs at her convenience and second to almost anything. Which means it might occur every weekend all weekend – or it might occur on a random Saturday for lunch. Or it might never occur at all. Certainly not on a holiday, and certainly not for weeks at a time when the children are out of school for summer.
Therefore, courts set forth visitation schedules and put them in Orders. The schedule is so everyone knows the times and days you have your children. So there is no question if you show up at your ex’s house to pick up your kids that you can in fact pick up your kids. The schedule is placed in a court Order so that the visitation is enforceable.
Interference with visitation can come in several forms. The most obvious is simply straight-up denial of visitation. Your ex may tell you bluntly that you are not visiting with the kids this weekend, or she may find “excuses” – a “family reunion,” a birthday party, a church event, or something else that she says is more important than you visitation. As we said before, nothing is more important than your time with your children, or their time with you. Second, the “event” is usually something that last for a few hours, yet she unilaterally decides that it is enough to cause the children to skip their entire time with you. These actions can form the basis of this Petition.
Another form of visitation interference is anything that reduces the quality or quantity of the time you spend with your children. For example, if she controls your time with the children by restricting who you are with or where you go or what you do, she is interfering with your visitation, especially if you cannot impose similar restrictions on her. Unless your visitation order states this, you are generally not required to take the children to practices or games or birthday parties or anything else that she has scheduled on your visitation time.
Courts may also include in the Order that you have the right to maintain regular telephone contact with your children. Courts very often do not set out a specific telephone schedule, assuming that people can “work this out” or that your ex will permit your kids to talk to you in the phone, even if she interferes with face-to-face visitation.
The Petition For Contempt is how the visitation is enforced. Contempt of court is when someone violates an Order of the court knowingly and willingly, without a legally valid excuse. Courts expect their orders to be followed, or they expect a reason why it was not. The Petition For Contempt brings to the court’s attention your ex’s failure to follow the Court’s orders regarding visitation, and asks the Court to punish her for her violation. You can even ask her to pay your attorney’s fees!
Erik H. Carter is a Senior Attorney of the Cordell & Cordell, P.C. office in Indianapolis, Indiana. Mr. Carter has practiced since 1993 as an attorney. He is licensed in Illinois, Indiana, Pennsylvania as well as the Northern District of Indiana and the Southern District of Indiana. Read more