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.
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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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