how to protect your visitation rights during proceedings

Custody Enforcement Proceedings

Goldberg Jones Child Custody 2 Comments

Many parents toil to remain a part of their children’s lives after divorce and custody battles. This isn’t always a fight that ends with the final agreement.  Ensuring that the rights you struggled for don’t get trampled can be a continuous battle. This is where enforcement proceedings come in handy.

Fathers often work hard to establish their rights in a divorce or custody case only to slack when it comes to making sure they are enforced later on. In an ideal world, everyone abides by the final divorce decree. That isn’t always the case in reality, however.

There are many ways parents often flaunt the established rules.

  • This can be blatant, like your ex denying visitation, or it can be more subtle.
  • Perhaps it starts out small, like your ex shows up late to drop off your kids or changes a vacation at the last minute.
  • It may not even be an intentional power move. But this is a slippery slope you should be aware of and keep an eye on.

Though these violations of the agreement may be minor at first. They can, however, set a precedent and establish a larger pattern of negative behavior. You fought long and hard to get what the court awarded you, but you might have to continue to battle to make sure that happens.

If your former spouse is not following the rules laid out in the final agreement, you may have to return to court for enforcement proceedings. The are also often called contempt proceedings.

These are an unfortunate but often necessary tool in these situations and may help you protect and enforce your rights as a father.

Related Reading: Establishing and Enforcing a Parenting Plan

Establish The Rules

You can’t hold anyone accountable for the rules unless there are rules established. You can’t simply sit back and hope your spouse does the right thing.

Before you move forward, there needs to be a concrete parenting plan in place. This lays out custody and visitation and accounts for all the other variables.

We frequently receive calls from fathers who have issues with their ex in this regard. Many former couples begin by wanting to do what is best for the children in question, to work together and co-parent.

Problems arise when this cooperative arrangement falls apart. Circumstances change, details get missed in communication, and disagreements happen.

Too rarely do parents discuss and spell out the specific details and minutia. We’re talking about dates, times, vacations, adjustments, and the base level particulars. The first step to combating what can be an incredibly frustrating situation is to come up with a parenting plan.

It’s great to hope that you and your ex will be amicable enough to put your differences aside to benefit your children. If the two of you can work together in this way, fantastic.

Though you may start out with the best of intentions, if conflict and disagreements rear their ugly heads, it will be to your advantage to have a tangible and enforceable deal on which to fall back. It’s best to set these rules during the divorce proceedings.

Related Reading: Writ Of Assistance, Divorce and Child Custody

Follow The Rules

Once you set the rules, you need to follow the rules. That’s simple enough; abide by the accord you helped lay out. Schedules change and adjustments will happen, that’s a simple fact of life. But as much as possible, adhere to the structure. Substantial and consistent deviations from the schedule can set a precedent that may make enforcement down the road more difficult.

If you wind up in enforcement proceedings, following the rules yourself usually benefits your case. It looks bad if you claim your ex needs to obey the bargain the two of you struck but you can’t be bothered to do the same.

Understandably, sticking to the rules while your ex flaunts them may be frustrating and disheartening. However, it will serve you well in the long run.

Related Reading: Parenting Evaluations in Oregon

Enforce The Rules

This step all too often goes overlooked or taken for granted, but it often pays big dividends. Much as you should follow the rules, you should do what you can to make sure that your ex follows them as well.

Don’t let them get away with breaking or bending the rules the two of you agreed upon. If they push the boundaries to see what you will and won’t tolerate, but you never call them out, this behavior is more likely to continue. The longer it goes, the more difficult it becomes to stop in the future.

The more you let things slide, the easier it is for the situation to slip out of your control. It may only take setting firm boundaries once or twice to establish the line.

While it’s important to enforce significant violations of the parenting plan, don’t be petty. Denying you vacations, holidays, or weekend visitation are all major issues.

We’re talking about that sort of infraction, not about being 15 minutes late for drop off. Small abuses are just that, small. While annoying, these are minor inconveniences at worst and are likely to stretch the patience of many judges during enforcement proceedings. Stick to the big stuff.

Proving breaches of the deal is important and something you should document with great care. Having a witness at a pickup or drop off where your ex doesn’t show may be a key to your case. If you get a clear denial via email, text message, voice mail, or on social media, save that piece of evidence. The more you have on record, the stronger your claim.

Related Reading: What Is The UCCJA? A Look At How It Protects Children

Benefits Of Enforcement Proceedings

A successful outcome of enforcement proceedings is readily apparent: moving forward, your custody situation should be easier and follow the previously established path. But there’s more.

If your ex is found in contempt for violating the parenting plan—meaning that a judge formally reprimands them—you may wind up with benefits beyond simple assurances they’ll follow the plan.

You may get additional time with your children to make up for missed visitations, holidays, or vacations. In some cases, since you almost certainly had to hire an attorney to represent you in enforcement proceedings, if the violations are deemed willful and intentional, your ex may have to cover a portion of your costs.

The most important part is obviously that you get your relationship with your kids back on track without interference, but these can be nice bonuses.

It may only take one sound legal thrashing to set your ex straight. In some cases, even simply the threat of legal action may get things back on track. While no one wants to resort to enforcement proceedings, they can be beneficial tools.

Related Reading: How Does Legal Marijuana Impact Child Custody?

Comments 2

  1. My husbands daughters mother (never married or in a relationship) regularly prohibits visitation and communication with his daughter. She either completely ignores phone calls and text messages or makes up excuses as to why she can’t let her talk to him. She agrees in text message to let him talk to her at a given time and then NEVER follows through it takes days and weeks for him to be able to have a 10 minute conversation with her that she keeps on speaker phone and in the background tells this little girl what to say!!! She has been trying to keep her from him since birth he didn’t get to see her until she was 5 mos. old. She’s been ordered to hyphen her last name with his last name and has never done it. His daughter had no clue her last name should be legally hyphenated. He has established he is the legal father with a DNA test and has gone through mediation and has a support case in order. She does not follow it! She has never used her own vehicle to venture outside of her own neighborhood to arrange visits. We always have to drive to get her and drop her off. He is barely able to talk to his daughter only once a month or sometimes even longer in between. The mother has moved to another town and lives in a hotel she has lived in a hotel since March 2017 its now October 2017. The hotel has two bedrooms and they have three adults and 4 minor children staying there. She has repeatedly denied telling us her actual physical address and instead makes us meet her at Wal-Mart to hide where she lives. She kept up a lie for months saying the house she was supposed to move to has black mold and it’s being removed. We are not stupid we know it doesn’t take months. Turns out that was another lie. She just gave him a PO Box address for her only last month after asking for weeks for the information. He has no history of violence or negligence. The mother also does not keep up on her dental care. We finally got her long enough to get her into an emergency visit to the dentist only to find her teeth are rotting out of her head. We had to have 3 teeth pulled and two filled in two days! This poor child. All of her kids are like this, she lied and said she was scheduling the appointments in June 2017 to this day she has not taken any of her kids. She has 5 kids, they all have different fathers, none of the fathers are around except my husband. My husband is afraid she is falling behind in life because of her mothers lack of caring, the daughter is 10 years old and has always had a speech impediment she has refused to put her in speech therapy. She lies to her tells her she is “Irish.” She was 8 years old and still didn’t know how to tie her shoes. She let her teeth become black with decay when she was less than 3 yrs old. She teaches her to lie and hide things from her father including her own 3rd pregnancy which we do not care about her other pregnancies. Telling a little girl not to tell her own father things is very wrong. She is kept away from him at any chance she gets. She denies us legal parenting time whenever she feels like it and uses excuses that are clearly lies. Her last ‘baby dad’ of a child she has who is 1.5yrs old is in prison for drug charges. She lies about who our daughter is around and we are afraid she will have her hurt with her negligent behavior and choice of adult males she allows around her!

    1. Post

      Hi Shawna, thanks for reaching out. That’s a complicated situation. I passed your contact information along to our managing attorney, Colin Amos. He will reach out to you soon to give you a better idea of options for how to proceed.

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