Dealing with your child's other parent often requires a great deal of patience and flexibility to create a good life for the child you love. In the real world, a good day with everything on schedule and no surprises can quickly turn into a bad day where nothing seems to go as you planned.
Few courts in the land are likely to hold a parent liable for acting outside of a parenting plan or custody agreement if their circumstances simply don't allow it every once in a while. It is still very important to understand, however, that these are legally binding documents, not suggestions by the court.
Unfortunately, far too many parents treat parenting plans like they may treat speed limits, as good suggestions to follow unless they are inconvenient. Of course, just as speeding may result in a ticket, violating parenting plans and custody orders may also result in action from the court. If your child's other parent does not properly respect and abide by your custody arrangement, this may qualify as parenting time interference.
Understanding direct and indirect interference
In broad terms, parenting time interference can occur either directly or indirectly, and the courts consider both varieties illegal. Direct interference occurs when one parent's actions or negligence denies the other parent their court-ordered physical time with their child. This may come about any number of ways, such as:
- Failing to exchange a child with the other parent at the agreed-upon time and place
- Failing to bring a child to scheduled visitation
- Refusing to return a child after a custody exchange
- Leaving the state or country with the child before informing the other parent
Some instances of direct interference may crop up naturally, as you and your child's other parent figure out the logistics of sharing custody, but patterns of behavior like this should not go unchecked.
Indirect interference is a broader category, and may occur any time one parent's actions or negligence undermines the other's communication or relationship-building with their child.
This is more difficult to pinpoint, and may include:
- Preventing one parent from communicating with the child over the phone or on some other device
- Speaking poorly of the other parent in front of the child
- Withholding the other parent's gifts from the child
- Compelling the child to spy on the other parent
These behaviors are not only illegal, they are transparently bad for the child, and undermine the ability of the child to trust either parent.
Many couples address this potentiality while creating their parenting plan prior to divorce, adding in specific language that forbids inference of any kind and outlines specific remedies for various violations.
If you suspect that your child's other parent interferes with your parenting time, be sure to invest in your family's future. Familiarize yourself with the legal tools you can use to protect your rights as a parent and keep your custody arrangement fair and loving.