It is a sad reality that divorce often causes adults to act like children. The bitterness and animosity generated by a breakup often leads to a total loss of reason and rationality.
Even more disappointing is that children are often caught in the middle of many of these arguments. Even though research clearly indicates that shared parenting and effective co-parenting plans benefit kids and help mitigate the harmful effects of divorce, parents are often quick to withhold child support or interfere with court-ordered parenting time during post-divorce disputes.
Often, when one parent is denied parenting time, their response will be to refuse to pay child support. Or, if a support payment is missed, the parent who didn’t receive the support will deny visitation as an act of retribution.
Don’t fall into this trap. Child support and parenting time do not go hand in hand. They are mutually exclusive and taking matters into your own hands puts you in contempt of court and, in a worst-case scenario, can lead to jail time.
There is only one exception to this rule. Some states allow a parent to temporarily halt support payments if their ex has disappeared for a substantial period of time.
Even then, you can’t just stop paying arbitrarily. You must continue sending payments to your ex’s last known address until you can petition the court for a temporary payment stoppage.
Otherwise, what options do you have if you’re being denied parenting time?
Try to talk it out.
Communicating with your ex and working out your issues on your own terms is by far your best option.
This method allows you to afford the expense of hiring a divorce attorney to file a motion to enforce the parenting time order and it is also much faster than waiting for a hearing date for the court to address the matter.
“As parents, you are stuck together in one respect for the rest of your life even after divorce; you are parents of a child and children and you will end up sharing in the life events that they experience in the future,” Cordell & Cordell Principal Partner Joe Cordell said.
“You might as well start trying to reason with the other parent now, as it can be a great exercise for the graduations, weddings, holidays, and births of grandchildren you will surely share.”
Act like an adult. Be clear with your ex about what your issue is and why it’s causing a problem and let them know that you are willing to take the order up in court if necessary.
Some parents still won’t cooperate, but it will help your case when the judge sees that you made an honest effort to work things out maturely.
As with any custody dispute, make sure it is a battle worth fighting.
Utilizing the courts.
Ideally, you and your ex can come to an agreement and work things out. Unfortunately, things rarely work out ideally in divorce and custody disagreements so you might be forced to take things up with the court.
This won’t be as convenient, but if you are clearly in the right this can be an effective way to permanently solve the issue.
You will need to file a motion to enforce to ask the court to intervene and require your ex to comply with the order. You also might be able to have the court issue make-up days for any parenting time missed and order your ex to pay for your attorney fees.
As soon as you start to notice issues with your ex denying parenting time you should begin documenting any missed visitation. Keep a detailed log and note every time your ex denies you parenting time as well as the excuse given.
Also make sure to keep copies of any communication you have with your ex via text, emails or letters. This is another reason you should always keep things civil.
All this documentation will help you build your case and convince the judge to take action.
Again, it is important to reiterate, never take matters into your own hands. Refusing to pay support will only lead to arrearages, which will cripple your case and put you in contempt.
Trying to fight fire with fire by taking your kids past any period of time beyond what is prescribed in your court order is even worse idea and can be considered parental kidnapping.
If attempts to resolve parenting time issues amicably fail, it is best to contact a family law attorney to help you figure out the best course of action going forward.