Once the dust settles from divorce, most people hope to move on productively with their lives and make the most of their circumstances, especially if there are children involved. However, for many parents who share custody or visitation privileges with their former spouse, the dust never seems to settle, especially when it comes to time spent time with their children.
Child custody issues can produce some of the most destructive long-term conflicts that most parents may ever encounter. As such, they typically receive special attention to keep bad behavior out of the picture as much as possible. Some parents simply cannot seem to play fair when it comes to their children, at least not without clear outlines of what is and is not acceptable.
If your child's other parent obstructs your parenting time with your child or attempts to undermine the relationship you and the child share, you may have more legal tools to protect yourself than your realize.
Creating clear boundaries in your parenting plan
When a couple divorces, in most cases the exes must create a parenting plan for approval by a court. This plan outlines how the couple shares time with the child and the responsibilities each parent assumes. It is also wise to include language in the plan restricting obstructive behavior by either parent.
This serves two purposes. First, it informs all parties that obstructive behavior is simply unacceptable and outlines which behaviors to avoid. Secondly, it provides both parents with legal clout to enforce these requirements if and when the other parent violates them. Parenting time interference is a big deal to family courts, which may punish offending parents in numerous ways, including loss of custody or visitation privileges, reassignment of custody days and even criminal charges, in some cases.
Direct and indirect interference
Interference in your parenting time can take either direct or indirect forms. Direct interference may occur any time that one parent prevents the other parent from spending physical time with their child according to a court-approved custody arrangement. Mild forms of this violation might be a parent refusing to show up on time to exchange the child or making up excuses to change custody days regularly. A severe example might be a parent taking the child without permission across state or country borders or even just out of the jurisdiction of the court. This may qualify as parental kidnapping, which is a very serious criminal offense.
Indirect interference implies behavior that keeps one parent from communicating with their child or undermines the parent's relationship. Such actions or behaviors might include one parent preventing the other from speaking on the phone with the child, throwing out gifts that the other parent gives the child or asking the child report back on everything that happens when the child spends time with the other parent.
Indirect interference also includes speaking poorly about the other parent in the presence of the child, which is never unacceptable.
If you suspect that you need to protect yourself from parenting time interference, don't delay advocating for the protections that you need to maintain your relationship with your child and continue to remain a positive force in his or her life.