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Parenting Time Interference

In an ideal world, disagreements involving parents would be resolved amicably between the adults, without involving the child. In many cases, however, parenting issues can result in parenting time interference.

Parental time interference occurs when a parent actively disrupts another's allotted time with their child. In some cases, this can rise to a criminal or civil offense.

This article addresses parenting time interference and some options for remedying this interference.

What Constitutes as Parenting Time Interference?

When two parents share custody of a child, they will often create a parenting time agreement, visitation agreement, or other arrangement governing each parent's right to time with their child. Parenting time interference occurs when one parent's parental time rights are denied or obstructed, either directly or indirectly. While these agreements may be informal, if problems do arise having them approved by a court will help you enforce your rights under the plan.

Direct Interference

Interference with parenting time can take many forms. In the most drastic cases, one parent may physically prevent the other parent from seeing the child by taking the child without permission, refusing to return the child, or moving the child to another state or country in violation of a court order. Direct interference can also include failing to drop a child off at a scheduled time, or canceling visitation days.

If a parent has fallen behind on child support payments, the other parent may try to prevent them from seeing their child. This, too, would count as parenting time interference. In almost every state, a parent can't deny the other's visitation rights because of missing child support.

Indirect Interference

A parent's time can be interfered with in indirect ways as well. For example, a parent may interfere with the other's rights by disrupting communication between the other parent and the child. Refusing to allow a child to communicate with the non-custodial parent can constitute unacceptable interference. Similarly, preventing a parent from participating in a child's school or extracurricular activities may count as interference.

Disparaging the other parent, asking the child to report on or "spy" on the parent's personal life, or attempting to make the child refuse to see its other parent can all constitute interference. To prevent this, and to keep their children out of parental disagreements, some parents may include a provision in their custody agreements saying that one parent may not disparage the other in front of the child.

Remedies for Parenting Time Interference

If a parent violates another's court-ordered parenting time, a court can propose almost any solution that it finds to be fair and appropriate. Common remedies include:

  • Ordering "make-up" parenting time
  • Having the visitations of the offending parent supervised by a third party
  • Imposing fines, court costs, and attorney's fees on the wrongdoing parent
  • Temporarily or permanently changing the parenting time order

For more extreme interference, a court may also order the arrest and imprisonment of the interfering parent. If a parent is violating court-ordered custody or visitation orders, they may be found in contempt of court. This can result in jail time. Many states also include interference with parental rights in their criminal laws. In California, Texas, and New York, for example, interference with custody can result in felony charges.

Parental Alienation Syndrome

When seeking custody of their child, some parents use this psychological theory as part of their case. Parental alienation syndrome is a tactic wherein one parent attempts to turn the child against the other parent via manipulation.

Parental alienation syndrome is invoked when, for example, a father claims that a mother's angry comments about the father have "programmed" the child against him. This syndrome may seriously damage the relationship between a parent and child and, according to some, can even lead to false allegations of abuse.

It's important to understand that parental alienation syndrome hasn't been recognized by the medical or psychological community as a disorder. However, it has been extensively studied and documented. It is often brought up in contentious divorces and custody proceedings and can influence custody arrangements.

When a Lawyer Can Help

A lawyer can help you draft a parenting agreement that meets your needs. For example, some parents include provisions in their custody plans forbidding their disparagement in front of the child. Many parents are also adding dispute resolution procedures to avoid returning to court in the case of a disagreement.

Get Legal Help With Your Parenting Time Issues

There are times when even a court-ordered parenting schedule can inadvertently go awry. However, when it starts to happen on a regular basis, it may be a case of parenting time interference.

If this is happening to you, there are many options available, including going back to court to seek enforcement of its orders. Before you do so, you should contact an experienced child custody attorney to discuss your case.

You Don’t Have To Solve This on Your Own – Get a Lawyer’s Help

Meeting with a lawyer can help you understand your options and how to best protect your rights. Visit our attorney directory to find a lawyer near you who can help.

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Contact a qualified family law attorney to make sure your rights are protected.

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