Parenting plans must be handled with good faith and flexibility. Problems arise when a parent acts in bad faith and ignores their obligations. If you feel this is something you’ll just deal with to avoid a confrontation, know that the situation won’t improve by itself. You’ll reach a point where you’ve had enough.
In most cases, divorces involving couples without kids are simpler because their relationships as spouses (with some exceptions) and individuals will end. That’s not true when parents divorce. They’re responsible for the same children, and unless one parent walks away from their child or is deemed unfit, they both have the right to maintain relationships with their child.
What is a Parenting Time Plan?
A parenting time plan aims to meet everyone’s needs as reasonably as possible by setting out a schedule of when a child will be with a parent. During the school year, the child may spend weekdays with one parent and the weekends with the other (or the weekends are split). This could also involve the child living with a parent during the summer and school vacations. Holidays are usually split between the two parents. Your parenting plan should be customized to fit the lives of those involved.
Ideally, the plan works for everyone, or minor changes are made over time. A child or parent may be sick. A parent may have a long, unexpected business trip. Cars break down. Traffic jams can cause delays, especially if a child and parent have a long distance to travel. These issues should be handled reasonably and unemotionally by the parents.
What Problems May Arise With a Parenting Time Plan?
Sometimes the situation is not ideal. One parent may see the plan as optional. It’s something they change at the last minute without consulting the other parent or child. One parent may feel the plan unfairly limits their time with the child, so they invent their own informal plan by returning the child later than they should.
This can be a serious problem for you. When your ex-spouse is chronically late or fails to communicate with you, it shows a lack of respect for you, your time, and the divorce order. Depending on the child’s age, their plans can be disrupted too. You may miss work or family obligations. Planned time with friends can be disrupted.
How Can I End Parenting Time Conflicts?
Here are some things to think about if you’re in this situation:
- Is the other parent doing this to you because you’re doing the same to your ex? Are your hands clean, or is this an exchange of fire with your children stuck in the middle? If you’re guilty of the same thing, you must stop.
- Does the other parent know their obligations? Does a lack of understanding or communication cause these issues? Don’t launch into a verbal attack. Clarify who needs to do what, and when. If the other spouse’s life has changed and the plan is no longer practical, try to work out a solution.
How Can an Attorney Help With Parenting Time Plan Problems?
If neither of these approaches gets results and your ex-spouse acts in bad faith, start documenting the problem. Create a journal with notes of your conversations. Confirm the discussions with a text or email. Keep these emails and texts discussing the situation.
When your child is picked up or returned late, take a photo or video with your smartphone. It should have the date and time when it was made. This is critical evidence that may allow you to leverage the court’s power to help you.
You should also call our office and get legal help. If you haven’t been divorced before, this may be the first time you’ve dealt with this problem. We’ve had many clients suffer through parenting plan battles. We’ve seen approaches that work and those that do not. We’ll put together a plan to get this under control.
One of our attorneys may speak with your ex-spouse or their attorney to try to straighten this out. Mediation may be worth a try. If all else fails, we can go to court to enforce the existing parenting plan and consider asking a judge to find your ex-spouse in contempt of a court order.
At Karen A. Ulmer, P.C., we know how to protect our clients and hold lying spouses accountable. Contact us today to see how we can help you.