My Ex Won’t Follow Our Visitation Orders. What Can I Do?
In cases in which the court has allocated visitation (parenting time) between the parents, the expectation is that those orders will be followed. Family law judges take their orders very seriously. They also generally take the parent child relationship very seriously, based on the belief that children truly need time with both parents in order to thrive and develop emotionally. When one parent elects to violate orders and withhold visitation there are various remedies available. In these situations, the primary goal of the aggrieved parent will generally be to get the parenting time back on track and in line with the ordered schedule. The secondary goal may be some sort of punitive action, perhaps designed to deter future violations. When orders are not followed, the primary statutory section Denver family law attorneys look to is C.R.S. 14-10-129.5.
C.R.S. 14-10-129.5 relates to “parenting time disputes” and sets forth an array of enforcement measures which can be sought. The core remedies available include make-up parenting time for time withheld and attorney fees. However, Section 129.5 also grants the court authority to issue preventative measures, such as requiring the parent violating the visitation orders to post a monetary bond, which will be forfeited in the event of further violations. Additionally, courts are vested with the authority to make modifications to orders and to enter contempt of court like sanctions. Section 129.5 is broad in nature and can be a very effective tool to get parenting time back on track when parenting time orders are violated.
As with any legal issue in need of court attention, the party filing a motion to enforce parenting time orders is going to ultimately need to prove his or her case. Initially, parties should understand that courts expect them to try to first work things out on their own. Courts are also looking for issues with substance. As such, it may be advisable to wait to file until a few instances of missed parenting time occur. There is no set rule and even one missed visit, or one instance in which the violating parent is late for an exchange, can be the basis for a motion to enforce. However, courts are generally looking for a pattern before they become too concerned. They are also looking for proof.
If you’re being denied your parenting time, the first step will be to document what is going on. With each instance, an email or text message should be sent to the other parent setting forth that you want your parenting time, that you were there at the proper exchange place, and that they were not. These communications can be used as evidence in court. Likewise, any communications from the other side can also be used. Once your motion is filed, statute indicates that a hearing should be expeditiously set on the court’s docket. As such, it’s important to be compiling evidence right away so that you are thoroughly prepared for hearing.
At hearing, both sides will be allowed to present evidence and the other side will most certainly try to present a valid basis for his or her denial of time. If the court finds a violation of the parenting time orders has occurred, orders will enter from there. Again, an award of attorney fees is mandated by statute.
Parenting time disputes or violations can range from on-going denials of all parenting time to lesser things, such as denying a holiday or telephone contact. It should be notes that, technically, a parent refusing or failing to exercise his or her time could also be considered a violation and grounds for the filing of a motion under C.R.S. 14-10-129.5.
As a general rule of thumb, filing a motion to enforce is the better alternative to filing a contempt of court motion and some judges even view contempt as not applicable to these situations.