How are Parenting Plans Enforced?

They are a number of different ways parenting plans are enforced. Let’s start with number one – have a good parenting plan to begin with. One of the biggest enforcement issues with parenting plans are that the parenting plan wasn’t drafted well in the beginning, so circumstances arise that aren’t covered by your parenting plan. Then, contention develops around those circumstances. The best way is to do it right the first time and to have a parenting plan that really covers a number of potential breakdowns.

Assume that suddenly someone’s stops doing what he or she said they were going to do in the parenting plan. What can you do about it? Let’s take an example. Number one, people aren’t paying their child support. That’s an entire video in and of itself, right, but there’s a number of ways you can enforce child support. We have an agency here in town, a child support agency that will enforce it for you rather than having to call a lawyer and have a lawyer enforce it. If you want an attorney to enforce the child support payments, then you can bring a motion to enforce child support. You can bring a contempt motion for not paying child support. There are a number of different motions that you can bring.

an empty courtroom

Let’s talk about other enforcement issues. That would be more around the parenting plan itself. Let’s just say that someone’s not taking her parenting time. You had agreed to 50/50 parenting time. You’re the dad and the mom is not taking their parenting time with the children. How can you enforce that? You can’t enforce making them take their parenting time. If they don’t take their parenting time, they don’t take their parenting time. There’s no way that you can have the court punish them for not taking their parenting time.

What you can do is try to modify the parenting time. If you’ve gone a year, and the other party hasn’t taken the parenting time they are supposed to take for a year, then you might go back and modify parenting time based on that there has been a change in practice, so it’s already been modified in practice, and you are going back to modify to say, in fact, this has been changed. You can do that.

Once that’s happened, certain conditions may change the agreements in place. The new orders have the parenting time that’s real, the parenting time that’s actually used. That affects child support payments mostly. Child support is based partially on how many over-nights each parent takes, and so when you go back and modify your parenting time to say, “Hey, this person’s not taking their parenting time.” At the same time, you would ask for a change in the child support as well and the other person would probably end up having to pay more child support because they have fewer over-nights.

That’s one thing that you can do. A second situation is that one of the parties isn’t allowing the other party to take their parenting time. They’re saying, “I’m sorry, Billy doesn’t want to go see you, so he’s not going because he doesn’t want to go,” and you are not getting your parenting time. At that point, you can file a motion to enforce your parenting time. The court has lots of way of enforcing that. They can actually have monetary punishments. They can actually levy fees for those restricting parenting time. They can tell the person that they must honor the parenting time. The second thing you can do is a contempt motion. Let’s say that the person continues to not allow you your parenting time, you can ask the court to file a motion for contempt. A motion for contempt is a pretty serious motion. It is quasi-criminal in nature. It’s saying that there is a court order, and the other person isn’t following that court order. They are in violation of that court order.

The court has lots of remedies if someone is in contempt of a court order. They can, again, assess monetary damages, but they can also put someone in jail, ultimately, if they feel it’s merited. It probably won’t happen right away, but eventually, it’s a distinct possibility. I’ve seen people go to jail for not paying their child support, so, yes, you can ask for jail time. You can have pretty severe punishments for not following the court order. Ultimately, if someone’s not allowing you to see your child, the question is why. If the question is a troubled relationship, such as if the child really doesn’t want to come see you for some reason or if they’ve been alienated from you for some reason, then the court has to craft some sort of resolution to resolve the issue.

Some resolutions could be therapy for you and the child, maybe even the other parent to find out what’s the source of the child being so adamant about not seeing you. There might be ways to deal with it that are more appropriate to the situation than just asking that the person who’s not allowing the child to see you get punished by having some monetary charge against them. You really need to get to the source of what’s going on and deal with that. That’s why the court has so many recourses for how to deal with issues related to parenting plan enforcements.