Inconsistent Visitation and Resulting Problems

           Once a court order is in place concerning possession and access, parties and their children tend to acclimate to the new schedule without too many problems.  However, if the possessory parent (the parent who does not have the exclusive right to designate the primary residence of the children) has an obstacle when regularly exercising possession, problems can arise. 

            First, it is important to understand that the possessory parent is not required to exercise each and every period of possession awarded to them in the order.  In fact, every order will contain a provision that orders the parties to notify the other parent when they are unable to exercise a period of possession.  

            Second, just because one parent notifies the other parent that they cannot exercise a period of possession, the other parent is not obligated to arrange their schedule to accommodate whatever portion of the period of possession can be exercised. 

            Most of the time, an inability to exercise possession and access is not going to be a problem as parents tend to fall into one of two categories: 1) a parent who exercises nearly every period of possession barring some medical emergency or natural disaster or 2) a parent who never exercises at all.  In these cases, there is a level of predictability for the parents and the children. 

            However, in the rare cases where a parent’s exercise of periods of possession is not as predictable, such as their work schedule is exceedingly difficult to predict, or subject to change, lack of predictability can become a problem for both parents. 

            Enforcement is likely to be a concern for both parents. 

Parents do not want to just sit at home and wait for a parent that may or may not show up.  However, not being at home for the designated periods of possession may make them vulnerable to an enforcement action, which can include fines, attorney’s fees, and even jail.

            Possessory parents who have an everchanging schedule cannot enforce their periods of possession unless they can guarantee that they are where they are supposed to be at when they are supposed to be under the order.  If they have a consistent issue with not being able to be there at the ordered time and place, there only solution may be to file a modification of the underlying order.

            Having open communication with the other parent can help alleviate these problems.  Establishing a consistent method of communication can be helpful.  Our clients have had used a variety of co-parenting apps, such as ourfamilywizard.com, to have a designated method of communication between them and the other parent.   Let the other parent know as soon as an issue arises and what your suggestion would be.  Be considerate of the other parent’s plans when asking for a change in schedule.  Figuring out a method that works for both parents can avoid future litigation.

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