Adjusting to the realities of sharing custody of a child is difficult for all parents, even those who want to work together to keep interactions civil or positive. In most cases, one or both parents may struggle at different times to abide by the guidelines of the custody order or parenting plan. However, there are limits to how much frustrating behavior parents should tolerate before taking actions to protect their rights.
When parents severely or regularly violate a parenting plan or custody order, they may suffer the consequences of parenting time interference. Courts do not take parenting time interference lightly, and may even issue criminal charges in some cases. If you believe that your former spouse interferes with your court-ordered parenting time, you should carefully consider the legal tools you can use to protect your rights.
Parenting time interference may occur both directly and indirectly. Depending on the nature of your experience, a court may order numerous remedies, including
- Redistribution of parenting privileges
- Ordering make-up days for missed parenting time
- Restriction of parenting privileges
- Removal of custody
- Criminal charges, potentially resulting in jail time
When one parent keeps the other parent from physically spending court-ordered time with one’s child, it constitutes direct parenting time interference. Courts generally consider direct interference to be more severe than indirect interference, and may punish a parent harshly if the violation is significant enough.
Severe direct parenting time interference might include a parent who picks up a child for his or her scheduled custody time and simply never returned, taking the child to another state. Depending on the circumstances, this may even qualify as parental kidnapping.
Less severe instances include parents who repeatedly cancel visitation days or custody time, or who regularly show up late to trade custody. While some of this behavior may occur from time to time, you should not tolerate it repeatedly in your own custody experience.
Even if one parent does not prevent the other from spending court-ordered time with the child, a parent may unfairly obstruct the other parent’s communications and general relationship. This may take many forms, so it is important to carefully consider all of your former spouse’s behavior, as well as your own.
Indirect interference may entail one parent refusing to give the child gifts from the other parent, or letters. It may also include one parent refusing to allow the other to talk to the child on the phone, or merely talking negatively about the other parent in the child’s presence.
Keeping your parenting privileges and priorities safe is not always simple. Be sure to consider all of the resources you have to resolve your custody conflicts.