What you need to know about parenting time enforcement

Young boy runs into his smiling father's arms on a clear spring day

Parenting time is one of the foundational building blocks of co-parenting after divorce. So when it's thrown into chaos, the effects are unavoidable. In certain cases, non-court remedies for addressing parenting time disputes may suffice. But if parenting time violations become the norm, and co-parents cannot reach a solution independently, parenting time enforcement becomes necessary. 

Parenting time enforcement is when a court uses one or several remedies to get a parent to comply with a parenting time agreement. These may include ordering makeup time, modifying a parenting plan, or suspending support.

It's critical to understand that parenting time enforcement varies by states. Procedures for requesting enforcement can even differ between counties. Consulting with a legal professional in your area is a crucial step before filing a petition for parenting time enforcement. 

What to document about parenting time violations

The absolute first thing you should do when your co-parent denies parenting time is to document the situation in writing. Contact your co-parent via email or OurFamilyWizard and provide details about the missed exchange and the denied parenting time.

If you do pursue parenting time enforcement, you will also need to document: 

  1. What was the parenting time supposed to be? 
  2. When were you denied parenting time? Provide dates and times.
  3. When was your last visit and for how long?
  4. What reasons were you given for the denial?
  5. What else may have contributed to the denial?
  6. Were there discussions about making up the time?

Determining if parenting time enforcement is right for your situation

 

How much parenting time were you denied?

Responses to a parenting time denial will vary based on the magnitude of the violation. If you are denied a single night of visitation or less, it's important to document the incident. But if it's an isolated incident, immediately pursuing parenting time enforcement may not be in your best interests from both time and financial standpoint. However, if these smaller incidents become a repeating pattern, parenting time enforcement is worth pursuing. 

But if you are denied a significant portion of your parenting time, like during a major holiday or over an extended school break, consider consulting a family law professional as soon as possible. Some states, like Oregon, even have laws requiring judicial districts to expedite parenting time enforcement motions due to their time-sensitive nature.

When was the parenting time denied? 

The time elapsed between a parenting time denial and an enforcement request will matter for some parents. Check with a family law professional about whether a court in your state may be less likely to pursue parenting time enforcement if too much time has passed. In Michigan, for example, the office responsible for enforcing parenting time orders may decline to act if the complaint comes more than 56 days after the incident in question. 

How does your parenting plan detail the division of parenting time between you and your co-parent? 

For the court to enforce parenting time, your parenting plan has to define your parenting schedule. If you do not have a court order specifying your parenting time, a court will not be able to enforce parenting time for you.

Parenting time violations will also be easier to address if your parenting plan specifically details when your children are to stay with you. When a court order gives a general provision in vague terms, such as defining it as "reasonable parenting time", it may be more difficult to enforce as well.

How OurFamilyWizard can help

If you decide to pursue parenting time enforcement, OurFamilyWizard can simplify preparing all the necessary documentation. Records from OFW can also provide weight to your arguments due to their high level of documentation and protection from manipulation. By having date and time stamps on every entry, verifiable by our servers, you can avoid many issues that may otherwise arise.