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What Happens When a Parent Doesn’t Follow the Parenting Plan

Most parenting plans are not strictly followed all of the time. In fact, some parenting plans contain provisions for times when the parents may agree to not follow parts of the parenting plan (in which case their behavior is not a violation at all). Many times, the failure to follow the parenting plan is by agreement of both parties, and in the best interest of the kids. For example, if the child becomes ill during one parent’s residential time with the child, the parents may agree that the child should remain with that parent, rather than having to move to the other parent’s house (in compliance with the parenting plan’s residential schedule) while ill.

In most cases, and especially when done by agreement of the parties, violations of the parenting plan are never addressed by attorneys or the court. However, in circumstances where one party violates the parenting plan without the agreement of the other party, and the violations are frequent and/or serious, a parent may need to ask the court to enforce the parenting plan on their behalf. Here are some options for a parent dealing with the other parent’s noncompliance:

  1. Do nothing. As stated previously, a parent may always choose to do nothing. If the violation does not bother you or your child, you do not have to do anything. (If the parent chooses to do nothing, they do risk that they could later be found to have acquiesced to the change in the parenting plan, providing the other party a case for modification.)
  2. Seek the assistance of a lawyer who can draft a demand letter. In some cases, a firmly written letter to the other party demanding their compliance with the plan is enough to end the violations.
  3. File a motion for a modification. If you believe these violations of the parenting plan create grounds for a modification (this is an issue that should be discussed with an attorney), you may file for a modification of the parenting plan. The modification should seek to end the violation of the parenting plan.
  4. File a motion for contempt. If a motion for contempt is granted the court will have the ability to redress the violation. The court may order the violating parent to provide the other party with make-up time with the child. It may order that visitation be temporarily suspended. The court may also order the violating parent to pay the other parent’s attorney fees.

Please note, if you ever feel that you or your child’s safety is in immediate danger call the police and seek their assistance.

If you would like to discuss a violation of the parenting plan with a Seattle area divorce attorney, please contact us.