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Child Custody Frequently Asked Questions: Enforcement of Parenting Time Orders

  1. My ex isn’t following court orders regarding visitation. What should I do?
    You shouldn’t start withholding your child support. You generally shouldn’t send the police over to his or her house to enforce the visitation orders. You could file a contempt of court action in your custody or divorce case. We generally recommend the filing of a “motion to enforce parenting time” pursuant to C.R.S. 14-10-129.5. A motion to enforce parenting time is supposed to take priority on the court’s docket, meaning it should be dealt with expeditiously. In addition to such a motion potentially getting you make-up parenting time, the court can also order attorney fees, modifications of the visitation, and various other remedies that might come with a contempt of court action. The court can also require the custodial parent to post a financial bond with the court, which will be forfeited if orders regarding visitation are further violated. No children should be wrongfully withheld from their parents. Court orders should be followed. If they are not, our attorneys can thoroughly advise you of your rights and all aspects of enforcing visitation orders.
  2. My Wife Refuses to Let Me Have My Court Ordered Visitation With the Kids. What Should I Do?
    When on parent fails to follow visitation orders, various remedies for enforcing parenting time can be utilized. The conclusion of the vast majority of Colorado child custody cases is the entry of orders regarding both parenting time (visitation) and child support. These orders will be formulated either through the parties reaching an agreement or after a court hearing in front of a family law judge or magistrate. Parenting time orders will usually contain a schedule for regular parenting time, holiday parenting time, and vacation parenting time. Well written orders will also contain specific provisions regarding start and stop times for parenting time, location and exchange procedures, and other relevant information designed to give both parents clarity as to their rights and obligations related to visitation with the children. As with any order in a Colorado family law case, the court expects that each party will follow its orders. However, in reality, not everyone follows those orders, including as relates to visitation. Fortunately, statute offers a variety of options people may employ when the other party is not complying with the orders in their case. When dealing with violations of parenting time orders, the most effective method, preferred by Denver child custody attorneys, is the filing of a motion to enforce parenting time pursuant to Colorado Revised Statute 14-10-129.5. Section 129.5 technically deals with “disputes concerning parenting time.”Upon denial of visitation, absent a truly valid reason, the parent withholding the children is in violation of the court orders and C.R.S. 14-10-129.5 is triggered. However, to utilize statute a motion will need to be filed. If your parenting time is withheld, the first step is to contact the other parent, preferably in writing, such as email, not only to request make up time, but also to create a paper trail record as to the violation and what went on. Depending on the specifics of the violation, it may be appropriate to go ahead and proceed with filing a motion to enforce parenting time. For example, if you are denied a significant block of time, such as Spring Break or a week during the Winter holiday from school, filing quickly makes sense. If you are denied a weekend or an one overnight, it may make sense to hold off to see if the violations continue. If they cease right away, it may make more sense, from a cost benefit analysis perspective, to hold off on filing. If future violations occur you can certainly include past ones in a motion. Each case is different and it makes sense to contact a family lawyer in Denver prior to taking action.When the motion to enforce parenting time is filed, statute indicates that within 45 days, the court must make a determination as to whether future violations will continue unless action is taken. Statute also indicates that any hearings regarding such a motion should be given priority on the court’s docket. At hearing, the aggrieved party will need to prove that a violation has occurred. It should be noted that only the exact letter of an order can be enforced and that verbal parenting time agreements are unenforceable.At the hearing on the motion to enforce, various remedies and actions can be sought. The usual remedies requested will include make-up parenting time. If make-up parenting time is ordered it should be similar in terms of nature and duration. For example, if a parent is wrongly denied a holiday, such as Thanksgiving, the make-up time should also be holiday in nature. A request for attorney fees and cost is also common and if requested, the court “shall” award fees upon finding a violation of the parenting time orders has occurred.Statute also allows for other sanctions, such as requiring the violating party to post a monetary bond, to be forfeited upon future violation of the orders. Modifications of parenting time can also be sought as a remedy under Section 129.5, though would likely only be ordered in egregious cases. The court can also find the violating party in contempt of court and employ contempt remedies. Given the array of consequences and remedies available, Section 129.5 is preferable to addressing parenting time order violations via the filing a a motion for contempt citation.
  3. Will the police help me get my kids back?
    From time to time, we see cases in which one parent or the other elects to just not return the children, despite court orders to the contrary. We also get inquiries from people wondering if the police will help them get their kids back from the other parent despite the fact that there is no case filed or no court order. Unless there are court orders regarding Colorado visitation and custody, each parent has an equal right to the children and there is nothing the police will do, absent, perhaps, an imminent and evident danger issue. When there are orders in place, the answer to this question varies from jurisdiction to jurisdiction. A police officer or department in one Denver suburb might be willing to go to the door to talk to the parent in violation of orders to see if they can convince them to hand over the child. In other places, the common response might be “it’s a civil matter.” Again, it truly just depends and we have seen various outcomes throughout the Denver metropolitan area. Fortunately, there remedies that can be sought through the court to get specific orders directing law enforcement to assist in retrieval of the child. This can even include issuance of paperwork, called a warrant, authorizing law enforcement to enter a residence. Our attorneys can assist you in figuring out the most effective and efficient way to get your children back, contact us online or call our office to schedule a case review.
  4. My ex isn’t pay child support. Is she in contempt?
    Child support is probably the most common area in which contempt of court cases arise. This is partly because with each month there is a payment due. Thus, with each month, there is an opportunity for the party paying to not follow orders. In terms of contempt of court, to establish contempt one must show that there is a valid court order being violated by a party who has knowledge of the order and the ability to comply with it. Therefore, if the child support payer has a job or income, or funds to draw from for purposes of paying the child support, then she is likely going to be found in contempt of court. However, if she got laid off from her job and has been unemployed for a while, though the court might find that orders have not been followed, the court would not likely find that she had the ability to pay. A violation of orders alone does not lead a court to a finding of contempt. The facts and circumstances behind the violation also matter.

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