You and your child are waiting at the time and place your former spouse agreed to in the custody arrangements during the divorce–and recently confirmed by a text or email. But your ex is a no-show–again. You can see the disappointment on your child’s face. Or maybe you’re waiting anxiously for your ex to return your child, wondering where they are.
For you it’s frustrating and even frightening when your ex disregards the schedule and forces you to make new plans. For a child, it can be hurtful and confusing. Like many separated or divorced parents, you probably maintain an outwardly calm expression and tone of voice and try to work it out yourself–at first.
Every co-parent is faced with something unexpected on occasion, so staying in communication and being flexible is essential–within reason. In fact, Missouri courts expect parents who share legal and physical custody to work together and be cooperative. But when a parent repeatedly refuses to follow the custody or visitation schedule, they’re in violation of the court-ordered agreement. It’s not fair to deprive you of parenting time, or fair to your child. So, what can you do?
First, what NOT to do – it is not ok to simply refuse to let the other parent see their child at their scheduled time without a court order. If you’ve already had several conversations with your ex about sticking to the visitation schedule, but have gotten nowhere, here’s what you should do next:
- Document violations. Make note of every instance when the other parent has strayed from the agreement (and any recent times when you have, and why). Keep track of dates, times and any reasons/excuses given.
- Ask your attorney to send a letter notifying your ex that they’re in violation of the agreement–and that you are willing to take legal action if they don’t comply. Sometimes a sternly-worded letter serves as a wake-up call.
- If violations continue, call the police and file a report documenting those. (Consider calling the police if the other parent has put the child in danger by not picking them up after an event, or if they haven’t returned your child to you at the agreed upon time.)
- File a Motion for Family Access to enforce the existing custody order. When completing the forms, you may ask to make up time you’ve missed with your child, request new child support terms, or have your ex pay your attorney fees.
- Ask the court that the other parent be held in Contempt for “willful disobedience” of the order. Penalties can include fines or even jail time.
- File a motion to modify the visitation agreement. Draw up a new shared parenting plan specifying weekends, holidays, special days like Mother’s Day, plus who is responsible for pick-up and drop-off, and the times and locations. Again, be sure to claim any lost parenting time.
- Finally, you can file a modification for more time with your child. Courts in Missouri favor joint custody and are reluctant to deny a child time with their other parent, but a pattern of violating court orders will not sit well with a judge.
We know how difficult it can be to revisit custody arrangements months or years after the divorce was finalized. But with Raza Family Law Solutions, you’re not alone. You can count on all our attorneys to provide effective, compassionate legal counsel in these and other challenging circumstances.
Need legal advice? The attorneys at Raza Family Law Solutions will provide the legal guidance you need. For questions, or to schedule a confidential consultation, call (314) 314-5505.