By Sarah T. McCain
Parties going through a Colorado family law matter, such as a divorce or custody case, often spend countless hours drafting a specific and thorough parenting schedule for their children. Each parent wants to put together a schedule which they believe meets the best interests of their children. However, parents are often not prepared for the circumstance when the child or children state their decision to stop exercising that schedule, meaning they don’t want to go for parenting time. This can be a frustrating time for the parent who is no longer receiving their planned parenting time and, when the child is an older teenager (ages 16 and above), it may even be more frustrating to learn that there may be limited options to correct the situation, despite the child still being considered a minor. However, despite limitations there are still options.
Parties often believe filing a motion for Contempt of Court against the other parent is the best course of action. This is not always the case. There are many factors to consider when trying to decide whether proceeding with contempt is the best course of action. Your experienced Colorado family law attorney knows that it’s imperative to your case to prove the other parent is directly interfering with your time with the child or is stopping your child from coming. Proof may come in many different forms, especially with older children. It is also important to show to the court that the other parent has not taken any steps to encourage the relationship or is empowering the child to make parenting time an option. Meeting the burden of proof necessary to sustain a contempt motion may be difficult, as it does have a high standard. Though contempt may be a viable option to rectify a denial of a parenting time situation, it is not always the best course of action to take when the ultimate goal is really to get the parenting time restarted.
Another course of action to pursue when faced with a denial of parenting time may be to file a Motion to Enforce Parenting Time pursuant to C.R.S. 14-10-129.5 or even a Motion to Modify Parenting Time pursuant to C.R.S. 14-10-129. With these types of motions, a court has a wider array of remedies available to them to get the parenting time on the right track, as opposed to only looking at punishment of the other parent, which occurs with a motion for contempt. Under a proceeding related to a motion to enforce visitation, the court will look at a variety of remedies from modifying the previous schedule, make up time, adding additional parenting time requirements, ordering parental education classes, family therapy, to even requiring payment of a bond to ensure compliance with the court order.
However, one item to consider when looking at whether to file a motion to enforce parenting time is whether you can prove to the court that the other parent is actually choosing not to comply with the Order. Many times, a parent of a teenager may encourage compliance with the schedule but the teenager opts not to follow based on his or her own feelings or wishes. This can be frustrating for both parents and can put one in peril. With older kids, the parents don’t have the ability to simply make the child go to parenting time by verbal encouragement or force (you can’t pick up a teenager and toss him in the car). Due to these realities, courts are often left with a difficult decision simply due to the age of the child(ren) and the realization that as much as both parents may want the teenager to exercise the schedule, the teenager has a mind of his or her own. So what do the parties and family law courts do?
As previously indicated, courts will look to both parents to encourage parenting time as much as possible. If you are the parent with the teenager in your care, you must encourage a schedule as much as possible. To prove you are doing this you might actively text encouragement and reminders to the teen regarding time with the other parent. If you are the parent on the other side, you must continue to try to reach out as much as possible. Don’t let the child rule the roost, but maybe let go of some of the authoritarian power struggles we all face when dealing the all-knowing teens. When a true impasse exists in the mind of the teenager, courts will often suggest the parties start with family or reintegration therapy to repair the relationship(s). This can be a long process where the court might want to review with some frequency. Obviously, all of these options should be evaluated by a qualified family law lawyer familiar with Colorado law. Our attorneys are available to anyone who has questions about their case, and can review your specific factors and make recommendations which will fit your needs and particular, unique situation.
To speak with a lawyer from Plog & Stein, P.C. during a free phone consultation, call (303) 781-0322.