The parenting time that a court chooses to award you is not a loose suggestion about how and when you spend time with your child, even if it is inconvenient for your child's other parent. While there is certainly room to consider hardship on the part of either parent, if a parenting plan is not sustainable for one or both parties, the law provides a specific structure that allows parents to petition the court for a modification to the custody order.
If your child's other parent simply does not abide by the guidelines of your parenting and custody plan, this may qualify as parenting time interference. Not only may the other parent lose privileges for interfering with your parenting time, he or she may even face criminal consequences if the court deems it necessary.
Preventing you from spending time with your child
Any time that a parent prevents another parent from spending physical time with their child, this may count as direct parenting time interference. Direct interference may include a wide range of behavior, such as
- Failing to meet up and transfer the child according to a custody plan
- Repeated lateness during child transfer
- Changing custody days regularly, or with very short notice
- Refusing to bring a child to visit with an incarcerated parent
- Refusing to return a child after custody time
In general, one parent must not take actions that keep the other parent from enjoying his or her court ordered time with the child.
Manipulating the relationship
Even if a parent does not physically keep the parent and child apart, he or she may still attempt to manipulate the other parent's relationship with the child. Courts consider this indirect interference, and may still issue punishment to a parent for this behavior.
Indirect interference may occur any time that one parent obstructs the other parent's means of communication with a child, or if the parent acts in a way that harms the child's view of the other parent, such as:
- Withholding gifts or letters from the other parent to the child
- Refusing to allow the child to speak on the phone with the other parent
- Refusing to allow the child to videotext with the other parent
- Speaking poorly of the other parent in the presence of the child
- Coercing the child to spy on the other parent during custody time or visitation
Parents who indirectly interfere may face similar punishment from the court, including loss of privileges and enforcement of existing or revised custody orders. Many parents find it useful to add language to their parenting plan that specifically restricts parents from this kind of behavior and outlines potential punishments for violations.
Be mindful to understand the tools and resources you have to protect your own rights as a parent, keeping your role in your child's life secure as you work to be the best parent you can be.