Divorce is one of life’s most traumatic events, especially if there are children and custody issues involved. Traditionally, women were considered the primary caretakers no matter the situation. But in recent years, men have gained more rights to have custody or required visitation, which benefits the child–having both parents in a child’s life provides stability and structure they benefit from enormously as they grow up. But custody and visitation agreements only work when both parties honor the terms of the agreements. If your ex has stopped adhering to those terms, it’s time to take action. Here’s what you need to know.
Are Parenting Schedules Legally Binding?
Yes, once the court has approved them, parenting schedules are legally binding. If one parent doesn’t abide by the schedule, the other parent has the right to seek legal redress. Keep in mind, however, that any legal steps you take must be done in the child’s best interests.
Courts and judges have little patience for exes who use the court system to punish each other. First and foremost, violations of the parenting schedules must show that they harm the child somehow.
What Legal Steps Should I Take if My Ex Frequently Ignores the Parenting Schedule?
Suppose you believe the child is in danger or the terms involving visiting forbidden people have been violated. In that case, you’ll want to act sooner than later, especially if you suspect your ex may try to kidnap the child and take them out of your reach or even out of the country. In those cases, contact the local police department and explain what’s happening and provide the evidence you have for their assistance.
For less immediate help, you can file a contempt action in court. The court can then order the ex to follow the existing orders, or they could face civil or criminal penalties. At the most severe levels, this could include jail time.
The other thing to understand is that in California, preventing a child from seeing their other parent could legally lead to a return to court to change the parenting plan and potentially even the custodial plan. It’s not something to take lightly or use as a revenge tool if someone is still angry with their ex over the conditions or causes of the divorce. But if
Can My Child Refuse to See Me?
In most circumstances, the child cannot refuse to see you, and the other parent needs to make sure the child understands that and abides by the requirement. (But if brought in front of the courts, they will typically give discretion to kids over the age of 13 or 14). Technically the child remains subject to the agreement until they reach the age of 18 and become emancipated adults. If an ex refuses to allow the other parent to see the child according to the terms of the parenting school and says it’s because the child doesn’t want to, they’re breaching the agreement.
Of course, if there is an underlying cause such as abuse of any kind, this could end differently. But if the child is treated well in both households and there are no concerns with their safety, they must abide by the agreement.
What Constitutes a Violation of the Parenting Schedule?
The obvious answer is a situation in which the ex will not let the child visit the other parent at all. But there are other scenarios that are considered violations of the parenting schedule as well. If you know or suspect any of the following is happening with your ex and your child(ren), it could be time to see a lawyer.
- The ex could be in violation of the parenting schedule if:
- They speak negatively about you to the child or attack you in any way.
- They expose the child to dangerous or immoral situations, or allow them to visit people the court has expressly forbidden them to see. Note that this does not mean you have the right to forbid them to see someone, for example, your ex’s new partner, just because you don’t like them. The court must weigh in and determine if there’s a moral or danger issue involved and then legally forbid the contact.
- They won’t pay their share of expenses as defined in the custody and parenting schedule documentation.
- Keep the child longer than is allowed by the agreement without explicit permission from the other parent, or continually arriving late for pickups or not at all. The key word here is “continually.” Everyone is late on occasion, and it’s not worth being litigious about it. It could even be seen as frivolous and reflect badly on you in court. But if a repeated pattern begins to occur, make sure you document how often it happens and the time frames involved to show that this is not occasional.
What Should I Do First When My Ex Doesn’t Honor the Parenting Schedule?
First, be sure to document every occasion when the parenting schedule isn’t being honored, then call us at 951-482-7517 to request an initial consultation. This is something you’ll want to resolve as soon as possible, not least because it can become stressful for the child if they’re not getting the right amount of time with both parents. At the same time, the courts will want proof, not hearsay, and they’ll want to establish if harm is being done by repeated violations. The key here is: Is the child being harmed by these violations? Being annoyed is not enough cause to go back to court.
Our experienced family law attorneys thoroughly understand California divorce and custody laws, and we can work with you to determine your rights and pursue making sure you get the time with your child that is owed to you.