For many parents, finalizing a divorce does not put an end to conflicts in their relationship. While a couple may no longer live together, sharing custody and visitation rights over a child creates many opportunities for conflict and bad behavior by one parent or another.
It is not illegal for parents to dislike each other, or even to treat each other with some hostility, but there are limits around a parent’s behavior when it impacts another parent’s time or relationship with their child. If a parent’s behavior robs the other parent of their time with the child, courts may object and punish the offending parent.
Parenting time interference may happen directly or indirectly. When one parent prevents the other parent from enjoying all of their court-ordered custody or visitation time with their child, it is direct interference. Direct interference implies that one parent is essentially stealing the time of the other parent, which is an asset one cannot recover once lost.
Custody orders and parenting plans should outline clearly when each parent has time with their child, and the responsibilities that they have to the child and to the other parent. These documents are legally binding, they are not suggestions a parent may follow when it is convenient.
Of course, we all encounter problems beyond our control from time to time, so it is also wise to consider the frequency and seriousness of any parenting time violations. For instance, if your child’s parent does not meet you to swap custody because their vehicle blew out a tire, because of dangerous weather conditions that make it unsafe to travel, or because of a medical emergency, you might think twice before using legal tools to defend your rights.
However, if your child’s other parent repeatedly shows up late to transfer custody, refuses to transfer custody, or takes your child out of the city or state where you live without informing you, these are serious violations. In some cases, severe direct interference qualifies as parental kidnapping, which carries serious penalties, including jail time.
Building a strategy to protect your rights
In some instances, it is possible to discuss concerns with a parent who committed parenting time interference and resolve the conflict informally, if the violations are relatively small and relatively infrequent.
However, if a parent commits a serious violation, or establishes a pattern of violating behavior, then it is time to use the law to protect your rights. When a parent commits direct interference, it is wise to take notes and gather any other documentation to demonstrate the interference really occurred.
Protecting your parental rights is much easier and effective with a strong legal strategy and a clear understanding of the rights you have to protect. Make sure to use high quality legal resources and guidance to keep your rights secure and protect the time that you have with the child you love.