How to Handle a Co-Parent Who is Sabotaging Your Parenting Plan
Your parenting plan is not negotiable after your family court has approved it. However, it’s fairly common for one parent to feel like they got a raw deal.
Maybe they got less visitation time than they think they deserve. Or, maybe they aren’t happy with the child support arrangements.
Whatever the case, when a parent feels slighted or still holds angst toward their ex-spouse, they sometimes try to sabotage the parenting plan and custody calendar they don’t like.
4 Legal Professional’s Tips on Dealing with a Non-Cooperative Co-Parent
When an ex-spouse outright breaks the court’s mandate, it’s very easy to show. But, many unhappy co-parents will instead try to get sneaky and act in a much more passive aggressive method.
These attorneys explain that you still have options even when the offenses are less obvious.
Sometimes, waiting until after a bad situation arises to address it is too late. That can certainly be the case when it comes to an uncooperative co-parent.
The very first way to protect yourself and the wellbeing of your child from a co-parent that might potentially want to start tossing monkey wrenches into your post-divorce relationship is to plan ahead before it becomes a problem.
Gina Ravaschiere of Villani & DeLuca says, “Systematic interference with one parent’s access to the children is a common problem in divorce cases. One parent consistently thwarting the other parent’s time, no matter how minor, must be addressed early on before it becomes the new norm. There are two simple ways to preemptively address this potential problem before it becomes chronic. First, have the client document the interference in writing as it happens with a reminder that counsel will become involved if the behavior persists. Second, provide language in the divorce settlement agreement that requires the parties to engage in either co-parenting therapy or mediation at the request of only one party if issues relating to the children arise on a post-judgment basis. By calling the interfering parent out on their behavior early and often and also having a mechanism in place to address the issue if it arises you can help your client avoid a costly return to Court while still providing your client with an objective professional to help rectify the situation.”
You can potentially save a lot of time, legal fess, and heartache by looking forward while drafting your parenting plan.
Martinson & Beason, P.C associate attorney Caleb Ballew says when your co-parent starts deviating from the parenting plan, it might be time to circle your wagons.
Specifically he says, “When a parent must coordinate and co-parent with an ex-spouse or separated parent who has difficulty honoring terms of the custody or visitation plan, that parent can feel like they are being punished simply for wanting to enforce the provisions of the parenting schedule. Few things are more frustrating than having to fight with an ex just to see your kids.”
He goes on in detail recommending that you communicate the situation with your ex, in email if possible, so you have hard evidence if you need to go to court. You can also seek counseling to try and rectify the problem before seeking court intervention. Additionally, record everything in extreme detail as you may be able to prove minor violations, which alone most likely won’t sway a family court to make changes in your parenting plan and custody agreement, but together may show a pattern of malfeasance.
LeTonya F. Moore of the Law Office of LeTonya F. Moore specializes in fathers’ rights. She suggests the offending parent may be doing more than just trying to be a thorn in your side. She says they might be planning to shift from acting passive-aggressively to outright aggressively.
She explains, “When the violating parent creates a pattern of conduct (Habitual Violation of the Agreement) I advise clients to “get ready for battle”. This is oftentimes an indication that the violating parent is building a case to make a change of the custodial arrangement. Once we monitor the situation for a period of time (60-90 days), we generally start with letters of non-compliance and gradually move toward filing with the court.”
If you feel you must start following Mr. Bellew and Ms. Moore’s advice and begin creating a trail of evidence for future use, whether in mediation or in front of a judge, there is a right way and a wrong way to do it.
Thomas J. Simeone, managing partner of Simeone & Miller, recommends keeping any direct correspondence with your ex-spouse friendly and leave the strong words for your attorney.
“You can and should try to resolve the situation by communicating your concerns. This should be done in a professional and respectful manner, even if you are angry and upset. The reason is that in family law cases a judge is always trying to determine who the more responsible and mature parent is. Therefore, if you are not able to resolve the matter and resort to involving the court, you want your communications, which will clearly be brought to the court’s attention, to show that you are the mature, responsible parent. Also, because you are a party to the case, it is always better for your communications to be positive and for you to allow your attorney to handle any negative communications such as threats of going to court. A lawyer can do that dispassionately and such requests are expected from attorneys.”
Just because you think your co-parent is going to act responsibly post-divorce doesn’t mean they always will. Luckily, you have options for assisting with any monkey business concerning their accordance to your parenting plan.
The safest way to protect yourself and your child starts before there’s trouble. Make sure your parenting plan addresses potential problems. Then if there is a problem, keep records of anything even slightly related to the indiscretions.
If third party involvement is warranted, always have your attorney deliver any strong words or legal threats. And, start with mediation before you try to go nuclear and head back to court.
Sabotage can be devastating if not handled appropriately, but you’ll more than likely be headed in the right direction by heeding the above legal opinions.