What Happens If a Parent Violates the Parenting Time Agreement?
Splitting the time a child spends with each parent is not an easy arrangement for the parents or the child, but is a necessary reality for any family experiencing divorce or separation. The division of time for the parents and child is termed parenting time, and is determined by an order of the court or an agreement between the parents themselves. While parents by and large voluntarily abide by these schedules, there are some who violate the terms of the parenting time agreement believing they are the better parent or deserve more time with their child. Alternatively, the violations may be unintended. For example, a parent typically needs to notify the other parent of any travel with the child, and if the custodial parent needs regular childcare, the non-custodial parent must be given an opportunity to provide this care before looking to outside sources. An article in the Tallahassee Democrat highlights an example of a father who took his child in violation of court order and was eventually arrested for interfering with child custody, among other charges. Florida law recognizes that not all parents will follow the terms for parenting time, and grant courts the authority to enforce these arrangements in line with what is in the best interests of the child.
Prohibited Responses by a Parent Once Violation Occurs
While a parent may feel tempted to take action on his/her own initiative to punish the non-compliant party, Florida law specifically prohibits a parent from taking two forms of retaliatory action. First, a parent may not refuse to follow the time-sharing schedule because the other failed to pay court-ordered child support and/or alimony. Additionally, a parent cannot refuse to pay child support or alimony if the other parent chooses to ignore parenting time arrangement.
Penalties for Violations
Unless the parent has proper cause, such as the mental and/or physical health of the child is threatened, refusing to adhere to the guidelines set out in the parenting plan can result in any of the following court actions:
- grant the non-offending parent additional parenting time with the child to compensate for the time denied. The extra time should occur as quickly as possible and at the convenience of the non-offending parent;
- order the non-compliant parent to pay the court costs and attorney fees of the non-offending parent incurred trying to enforce parenting time;
- order the non-compliant parent to attend a parenting class;
- order the non-compliant to complete community service, unless such an obligation would interfere with the welfare of the child;
- require the non-compliant parent to bear the bulk of the financial costs of frequent and continuing contact when the parent and child live more than 60 miles away from the other parent;
- at the request of the non-offending parent, modify the parenting plan if it is in the best interest of the child; and
- hold the non-compliant parent in contempt of court, which could lead to jail time if the parent continues to withhold cooperation.
Contact a Family Law Attorney
Amicable cooperation between parents trying to share custody of a child is sometimes difficult, but ultimately, the best choice for the child’s sake. If, though, you continually find yourself fighting the other parent in order to exercise your rights under the parenting plan, it is imperative you speak to a family law attorney to ensure you lose as little time with your child as possible. The Tampa law firm of Bubley & Bubley, P.A. understands the importance of maintaining a strong parent-child relationship and will work to produce the type of custody arrangements you want. Contact us to schedule a confidential consultation.