18 Aug How to Enforce a Parenting Plan
Your original court case took a year or longer. You negotiated and renegotiated each term and finally reach an agreement. The signatures are on the dotted line. But now your ex is refusing to follow it. How do you enforce a Parenting Plan?
A Parenting Plan is required in any divorce or paternity action involving children. It details the custody, visitation schedule, holiday schedule and what-ifs surrounding the care of the children. The Parenting Plan is binding on both parties. Some parties slowly begin dropping this or that. Maybe they stop providing notice when they go out of town or start switching the visitation schedule. It can quickly devolve into one argument after another and one party becomes saddled with figuring things out. There are (3) things you can do to stop this from escalating:
(1) Resolve it Informally
Would an adult conversation solve the problem? There was a reason you agreed to what you agreed to in the Parenting Plan. Perhaps schedule a time where you can sit down and review the terms and why something is important. Maybe your ex is just getting lazy and not thinking about how this is affecting you or the child(ren). You might be asking how to enforce a parenting plan, but your ex might be completely oblivious to the problem.
The failure to follow the Parenting Plan can be considered contempt of court. Contempt is when one party refuses to follow a Court order. It has to be willful, so this isn’t to be used lightly. Contempt is useful when your ex is being overtly obstructive regarding the care of the children. In a contempt action, the Judge will issue an order requiring that person to “show cause”, i.e. give a good explanation, to the Court as to why he or she is not abiding by the terms of the agreement. It is punishable by fines and, in limited circumstances, jail. Contempt is a court action and you should contact an attorney if you need to explore this.
(3) Modification of the Parenting Plan
If the parties cannot abide by the Parenting Plan, then maybe the problem is the Parenting Plan itself. Is there a reason that your ex is changing certain terms? Maybe he or she did not foresee a problem with the visitation schedule or the choice of a school. Maybe the parenting plan is five plus years old and simply too outdated to work for your situation. Does anything even relate to your current circumstance? If the underlying problem is the Parenting Plan itself, then it might be time to modify it. The standard for modification is that there has been a substantial change in circumstances that has made the enforcement of the terms unreasonable. This can be because of an actual change in your life, or it can be from passage of time. This is also a Court action and you should contact an attorney if you need to explore this further.
There are avenues to enforce a Plan, both informally and formally through a Court of law. The very first step to enforce a parenting plan is to identify why the other party is failing to abide by the terms: lack of knowledge/laziness, purposeful obstruction, or because of outdated/unreasonable terms that need to be changed. Once you have identified the cause, you can choose the solution.