Your parenting order is a court order. Both parties are legally required to follow it until and unless it is modified by the court.
If your children’s other parent routinely denies all or part of your parenting time for no good cause, your family law attorney can file a petition to enforce the parenting order. If that petition is approved (after a reasonable time and opportunity for your ex to respond), the court must do one of the following things to ensure compliance:
- Find the violating parent in contempt of court, which could mean fines or even jail time, in some circumstances
- Order a civil penalty of not more than $100 per violation, which goes to the state’s alternative dispute resolution fund
- Order make-up time for any parenting time you were denied
- Order parenting education at the violating parent’s expense
- Order family counseling at the violating parent’s expense
- Order both parents to participate in mediation or another form of alternative dispute resolution at the violating parent’s expense
- Make another order the court finds is in the children’s best interest
In order to determine if your ex has violated the parenting order and to decide which penalty should be handed down, the court will hold a hearing.
Also, if the court finds your ex has violated your parenting order, it can order your ex to pay your attorney fees and court costs. However, it’s important to realize that the court could order you to pay your ex’s attorney fees and court costs if the court finds no violation by your ex.
Getting more time with your kids may require a modification
It is also possible to seek a modification to your existing parenting order, under some circumstances. Generally, you will have to wait for a year from the date of your current parenting order before you can ask for any changes.
However, if your ex has not been complying with the parenting order, however, you need only wait six months to ask for a modification.
There is an even shorter wait before filing a modification when you’re doing so because you believe, in good faith, that there is domestic violence or child abuse occurring.
In addition to the waiting period, you should know that the court will only modify your parenting order if the circumstances have substantially changed since the original order was issued.
Overall, it’s important to know that Arizona law seeks to maximize each parent’s time with the kids. Arizona courts will only limit one parent’s parenting time if it finds that the parenting time would seriously endanger the child’s physical, mental, moral or emotional health.
Finally, you should never use the courts as a weapon against your ex. If the court finds that your petition for modification was filed to vex or harass your ex, it will make you pay your ex’s attorney fees and court costs.
If your ex has routinely been late, changed the schedule in a way that deprived you of time with your kids, or has outright denied your parenting time, it may be time to take action. An experienced family law attorney can help you determine the best way forward.