FAMILY LAW BLOG
Submitted by Courtney J. Marshall
Parenting time disputes can wreak havoc on a co-parenting relationship and clog up the court’s docket. Parenting time disputes can range from one parent not showing up for the exchange on time, to completely withholding parenting time, to legitimate safety concerns for the child(ren) during parenting time. There are a number of tools that can be used to address parenting time concerns and disputes.
First, communicate your concern with the other parent in writing. Co-parenting requires communication with each other (unless prohibited by court order) and if you have an issue with your co-parent, you need to communicate that. Do so only in writing because you want to create a paper trail to show what steps you’ve taken on your own to rectify the problem. Courts and the Friend of the Court don’t want to play “referee” each and every time a parent has an issue with the other parent over parenting time. So, first try communicating your concern to the other parent in writing.
If that doesn’t solve the problem, file a parenting time complaint with the Friend of the Court (“FOC”) which you can do through most FOC websites. Include copies of your text messages, letters and/or emails to the other parent showing that you tried to fix the problem on your own. The FOC will respond to the complaint in some way, usually a written letter to both parents. Make sure to keep a record of your communication with the FOC, as well as the letter that you received back. Hopefully that fixes the problem, but if not, you’re building your case with documents to back it up.
If the FOC is unable to fix the parenting time issue, you can file a motion with the court. In most jurisdictions that will land you with the FOC prior to arguing your motion before the judge, but if you do have to go before the judge you have in hand your documents showing what efforts you’ve made to fix the problem on your own, with assistance from the FOC, and finally with a recommendation from the FOC as to what relief the FOC deems appropriate in that case.
If parenting time complaints become common place in your co-parenting relationship, the court may be left with no choice but to appoint a parenting time coordinator. This is a disinterested third-party, often a family law attorney, who will act as the referee for these disputes. A parenting time coordinator can be a wonderful tool, but they are not free and the cost can add up quickly if the parties need intervention on a regular basis. The appointment of a parenting time coordinator is a last resort for most courts and quite frankly, co-parenting relationships that require a parenting time coordinate are usually the most difficult cases.
If you find yourself with parenting time disputes and nothing seems to be working, give us a call at 866-yourrights or visit us on the web at yourrights.com.
Happy Holidays from the family law department with the Law Offices of Joumana Kayrouz!