The Gainesville Child Custody Attorneys of the Law Office of Alba & Straile, PLLC remind parents that when a party is subject to an order of the court, and fails to adhere to such order, there are many consequences that can result. While some parents may believe that if a parent fails to pay child support, they should be entitled to deny access to or time-sharing with a child—this is a misconception. In the reverse, while a parent may believe that if they are denied their court-ordered time-sharing, they should not have to pay child support—this is also a misconception.
When the court has reached a determination, and reduced such decision to writing in a final order, parents generally cannot take it upon themselves to modify, alter, change, or deviate from such terms, without further order of court. Doing so can have a number of implications. Failure to pay child support has its own consequences, here we discuss the consequences of a parent’s failure to allow access to or time-sharing with a child. Pursuant to Fl. Stat. 61.13(4), when a parent, without proper cause, refuses to honor the other parent’s rights under the time-sharing schedule, as set forth in the parenting plan, the non-violating parent may be entitled to make-up time-sharing, as follows:
“[…] after calculating the amount of time-sharing improperly denied, award the parent denied time a sufficient amount of extra time-sharing to compensate for the time-sharing missed, and such time-sharing shall be ordered as expeditiously as possible in a manner consistent with the best interests of the child and scheduled in a manner that is convenient for the parent deprived of time-sharing. In ordering any makeup time-sharing, the court shall schedule such time-sharing in a manner that is consistent with the best interests of the child or children and that is convenient for the nonoffending parent and at the expense of the noncompliant parent.
In addition to make-up time-sharing, the court can order the parent that violated the time-sharing schedule to:
- Pay reasonable court costs and attorney’s fees incurred by the nonoffending parent to enforce the time-sharing schedule;
- Attend a parenting course approved by the judicial circuit;
- Do community service if the order will not interfere with the welfare of the child;
- Bear the financial burden of promoting frequent and continuing contact when that parent and child reside more than 60 miles apart from the other parent
Further, when a parent must seek court intervention due to the other parent’s violation of the time-sharing schedule, the court may, upon request of the nonoffending parent, modify the parenting plan. However, modifications under these circumstances still require the court to assess whether modifying the parenting plan would be in the best interests of the child.
It is important for parents to know that the potential consequences for noncompliance with custodial orders pertaining to time-sharing with the child, are not limited to those stated herein. Rather, the court may impose any other reasonable sanctions or remedies that the court deems appropriate, including holding a party in contempt.
On the other hand, there are situations where a parent may have been justified in violating the time-sharing schedule. Examples of proper cause for denying time-sharing may include circumstances where a parent or child has been abused or harmed, or where there is an imminent risk that the parent or child will be harmed if the other parent were allowed time-sharing pursuant to the schedule set forth in the parenting plan.
However, parents must be prepared to provide the court with evidence to support their assertion that proper cause existed. In other words, merely stating that time-sharing was denied because the parent or child was or may be harmed, without credible evidence, is generally insufficient to prove that the noncompliance was justified. Consequently, absent a parent’s ability to show proper cause, the court, in the very least will likely order make-up sharing, but may also impose one or more of the consequences referenced above.
In short, parties to a child custody proceeding should never undermine the authority of a court, unless they have good cause to do so, and can support this with evidence. Parents with hesitations over honoring the time-sharing schedule, can protect their rights by discussing their questions and concerns with an experienced family law attorney, prior to violating an order of the court. In cases where the time-sharing schedule has already been violated, an attorney can assist by discussing if there are any actions that an offending parent can take to limit potential consequences, as well as explaining legal rights and remedies available to a nonoffending parent.