It is heartbreaking to see your child waiting for their other parent to pick them up, only to be disappointed, again. Perhaps your ex frequently forgets that it’s their designated parenting time. Or, perhaps they have simply disappeared and dropped out of your child’s life altogether. Whatever the reason for their absence, when a parenting time plan is in place, can you force your ex to exercise their rights and spend time with your (and their) child?
It is extremely difficult to get anyone to behave how you want them to behave, especially when they have their mind made up. In cases of parents simply not spending parenting time with their children, it is virtually impossible to force them to share quality time with them. And, would it be in your child’s best interests to have them spend time with a parent who doesn’t really want to be there?
Unfortunately, there is no law on the books here in New Jersey that compels someone to be a good or involved parent. Still, there are some steps you can take:
Go back to court. Some custodial parents in these types of situations go back to the court and ask that the parenting time that is in place be reduced or stopped, altogether. But, this may not be in the child’s best interests, either, and may not have the true intended outcome: to reunite the child with their other parent on a consistent basis. Generally, the courts here believe that children thrive most with the continued involvement of both parents. But they also understand the inconvenience of a no-show parent.
Ask for consequences. Courts can impose sanctions against a parent for failing to follow the court order that outlines parenting time, such as monetary sanctions (see below), that do not necessarily impact the actual parenting time schedule. If your child’s other parent does appear for parenting time, but is a frequent no-show, consider changing the order to state that if he does not come to get your child by a certain time, you are able to make other plans, rather than be required to wait around.
Revise your schedule. You could also request that the court modify the parenting time schedule. For example, if your ex is supposed to have parenting time every Friday to Sunday, ask that it be changed to one weekend a month. Your request may encourage your ex to follow the current plan and reduce the frequency of the risk that your child is disappointed. Further, if the court does reduce the parenting time that your ex has been awarded, your child support may increase, because child support calculations take into account the number of overnights your child spends with their other parent.
Monetary sanctions. The court can also order other penalties such as a payment of a sum of money to compensate you for a loss you may have incurred as a result of their failure to exercise parenting time, a fine paid to the court or even payment of your attorney’s fees for having to bring the motion to enforce the parenting time order.
Best interests are always paramount. Any request to change parenting time or custody must be made with the best interests of the child at the forefront. If your child is being emotionally harmed by your ex’s failure to spend time with them, then a reduction of parenting time may truly be in their best interests. Of course, if you feel that your child is struggling emotionally due to this or any other situation, consider a child therapist who can offer your child a safe space to communicate their feelings about their other parent and the lack of their involvement in their life. Your child’s psychological well-being should always be your first concern.
Facing a similar situation? If you have an ex who fails to spend quality parenting time with your child, or if you have questions regarding custody or any other family law issue, contact us to schedule a confidential consultation with one of our compassionate family law attorneys. Please call us today: 888-888-0919.