Confused parent

Parenting Orders Not Followed: What to Do

Not following parenting orders is a source of frustration and conflict for separated and divorced parents. Sticking with the orders generally makes life easier for everyone, including the kids.

But violations happen. Sometimes there are good reasons. And sometimes they happen by accident. Let’s have a look at some of the problems that happen with child visitation and what you can do to help fix things.

How to Enforce Custody Orders

The ultimate remedy for a parent ignoring a custody order is legal action. This can take the form of a petition for enforcement or an application for contempt.

  1. Review the parenting order first. It may offer solutions for minor issues.
  2. If issues persist, document every violation. Precise records are crucial.
  3. Before filing, make it clear to the other parent that continued breaches will lead to legal action. This strategy can act as a deterrent.
  4. File a petition to enforce compliance. The court can impose fines or adjust custody to ensure the order is followed.

Penalties serve as a deterrent. They ensure the custody plan is respected, prioritizing children’s well-being.

Be Firm and Strategic

Woman using phone outside commercial building

The right attitude can help achieve good cooperation from the other parent and avoid legal disputes. Think about your mindset and strategy. It is important to move on from any past hurt and be clear-headed in your approach.

Some tips to make your relationship with the other parent professional and most likely to produce compliant behavior include:

  • Follow the custody orders consistently yourself. Adhere to the parenting plan to set an example and make any breaches by the other parent more stark.
  • Communicate effectively but in a restrained manner about following custody orders. Enable yourself and the other party to adhere to the orders with minimal fuss.
  • Use written communication, such as text messages or emails, to document any agreed variations from the orders and any violations. Be concise and factual, considering how the messages might be interpreted in a court setting.
  • For an agreed variation, you could write, “That’s fine, just as a one-off, for you to keep the kids for an extra night on July 13 to have the weekend away.”
  • For a breach, adopt a non-judgmental tone: “The kids were unavailable for pickup on August 7 at 3:00 pm. I did not agree to this. Please make them available as per the orders in future.”

Key to success is avoiding emotional battles with the other parent. Think of your interactions as a business-like relationship backed by law, not an emotional entanglement. They need to respect you but also find it easy to cooperate with you. You also want them to understand that you are prepared to take action if they are unreasonable.

Related: Co-Parenting with Someone Who Hurt You

Guidelines for Following Parenting Plans / Orders

Many of the potential problems with following parenting orders, and their remedies, are explicitly spelled out. Responsibilities and rights may be in the actual plan or order, or covered by state legislation.

Your state may have set Child Parenting Time Guidelines (as my state calls them) or an equivalent thereof. These are set guidelines to give both custodial and non-custodial parents backup and guidance if there are any questions about who gets whom and when, holidays included.

However, as with most other details of day to day life, and dealings with the human race, the guidelines don’t always have solutions for every problem. Nor should they.

As well, there are times when the human element will come into play, and if humans can do one thing, they can be petty, spiteful, forgetful… you name it.

So, how do you deal with situations like the following?

Constantly arriving / dropping off kids late

Analog clock

Believe me, poor punctuality around child visitation and transport can be extremely frustrating. Your ex is constantly late picking them up, or dropping them off.

Perhaps the most painful time is when you haven’t seen the kids for a while, are missing them, have plans for what you are about to do together, and they’re not available when you try to collect them.

Never mind either if you have personal commitments, or what the agreed-upon schedule was to begin with. The beat of your ex’s own drummer is firmly being danced to. Well, of course this is nonsense, and you shouldn’t have to stand for your ex not meeting schedule responsibilities.

If punctuality is a continuing struggle, at some point, gently remind the other parent that the child visitation schedules were set for a reason. They are legally binding, pending other agreements. Not only that, it’s just plain rude. If the schedule isn’t working, suggest changes that will work for all sides. It never hurts to be diplomatic.

Cancellations, or refusal by other parent to see kids

Sadly, this will happen, and sometimes for very legitimate reasons. Work issues can crop up, illnesses, family emergencies. On the other hand, sometimes the non-custodial parent can just cancel their visitations in a fit of pique (It’s happened to me!) or because of an ongoing argument, or simply because they don’t feel like it.

While your first reaction may be anger at the other parent, try to remember your feelings are the least of the concern here. The children just got told their parent didn’t want to see them, or otherwise couldn’t see them. For reasons that, more than likely, have nothing to do with them.

That hurts.

Be that rock for them. Reassure them that it’s not their fault. Go out of your way to comfort them, whatever it will take. Kids can be stronger than you think, but chances are, they still love their other parent, even if you don’t any longer.

Of course, it’s also still on the other parent to make amends, both to you, but especially the kids. Don’t forget about that, and don’t let your ex forget that either.

Refusal by custodial parent to allow child visitation

This, actually, is pretty clear cut. In most jurisdictions, the custodial parent cannot refuse you visitation rights to the children, barring orders from the court in the matter. They have a responsibility to facilitate visitation.

It doesn’t matter how far behind you are on support (although, seriously, get on that tout suite), the custodial parent is legally prevented from telling you that you cannot see the kids.

If this is happening to you, talk to your attorney. This is a matter for the court to decide (both the refusal itself, and the reasons why), and could lead to contempt charges against the custodial parent. Diplomacy is always best, but sometimes, you just need an attorney.

Constantly changing the schedule 

Constant schedule changes are another matter that’s more of a pain than anything. But lack of a consistent child visitation schedule can only lead to confusion, both for you and for the kids.

When in doubt, the guidelines set in the divorce agreement need to be followed, period, as well as the guidelines set by your state or supervising jurisdiction. Holidays especially are points of contention, but that’s why the guidelines were set.

But if one parent or another keeps making changes, or keeps asking to make changes, then perhaps it’s a good idea to actually change the schedule instead. You can either do this unofficially, or make it binding via court order (consider mediation as a less expensive alternative to a court battle), but whatever the means or method, it could help avoid more drama over the issue.

Be Ready To Resolve Conflicts

Man sitting in thought with hand on chin

It’s never a good idea to use the court to solve your personality conflicts. Preferably, work towards a solution in a way that benefits everyone – including the children at the center of it all.

But, if there are actual issues that need to be solved, then get them solved. As always, if you have any deeper issues or concerns, consult your attorney, or state regulations.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *