How to Handle Parenting Plan Sabotage

Once you receive a custody order, it's not open for negotiation. Short of approval for an order modification, both parents are expected to follow their parenting plan as it's written.

However, it's relatively common for one parent to feel like they got a raw deal. Maybe they got less visitation time than they wanted, or they aren't happy with the child support arrangements.

Whatever the case, when a parent feels slighted, they sometimes try to sabotage the parenting plan in retaliation. We asked four family law professionals what parents can do when faced with an uncooperative co-parent.

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Tips for dealing with a noncooperative co-parent

When the other parent outright breaks the court's mandate, it's easy to show. What if they act in a sneaky and passive-aggressive way? These lawyers explain that you still have options even when the offenses are less noticeable.

Preemptive strike

Sometimes, waiting until a bad situation arises is too late. It's best to have a plan in place to protect you and your child in case the other parent starts tossing wrenches into your post-divorce relationship.

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."

Ravaschiere explains, "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."

She continues, "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 could potentially save a lot of time and legal fees by laying out how you'll handle disagreements in your original parenting plan.

Think defensively

Martinson & Beason PC associate attorney Caleb Ballew says when your co-parent starts deviating from the parenting plan, it might be time to circle your wagons.

"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 also recommends that you communicate the situation with your ex — in an email, when possible, so you have hard evidence if you need to go to court. You can also seek counseling to try to rectify the problem before seeking court intervention.

Use a custody journal to record everything in extreme detail to show even minor violations. Together, your records may indicate a pattern of wrongdoing that compels the court to modify the order.

Get ready for battle

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 noncompliance and gradually move toward filing with the court."

Sugar not vinegar

If you feel you must begin creating a trail of evidence to use in mediation or in court, there are two ways to do it: the right way and the wrong way.

Thomas J. Simeone, the managing partner of Simeone & Miller, recommends communicating civilly with your ex-spouse and leaving the strong words for your lawyer.

"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," he continues, "because you are a party to the case, it is always better for your communications to be positive and for you to allow your lawyer 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."

Tamper-proof your parenting plan

A parenting plan is key to keeping some level of consistency in your child's life. Don't leave its terms open to interpretation.

The Custody X Change app takes you through each step of creating a plan to spell out your terms in airtight legal language that protects against any possible violations.

The result will be a professional document that demonstrates your competence as a parent and ensures your child's future.

The easiest and most reliable way to make a parenting plan is with Custody X Change.

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