How to Enforce Parenting Time in Arizona
Enforcing Parenting Time in Arizona by Getting a Court Order
If you are married or had children out of wedlock, the first thing you need to do to enforce parenting time in Arizona is to obtain a court order for parenting time. There is very little you can do if you do not have a court order.
If you summon the assistance of law enforcement without first obtaining a child custody order, you will likely be told by the responding law enforcement officers that “you need to go to court” to secure visitation rights with your children. If you are married, you can file a divorce or legal separation or you can simply file a Petition to Establish Custody and Parenting Time with the Superior Court where your child lives.
An Arizona divorce decree or other child custody order with a parenting plan should spell out any noncustodial parent visitation. It’s not uncommon for the custodial parent to deny access to the children wrongfully; refusing to comply with the Court’s order for parenting time with the non-custodial parent.
In some cases, former spouses will find themselves in the midst of an argument that escalates to the point of one parent engaging in parental alienation of a child or purposefully withholding the children during the other parent’s parenting time. In a lot of cases, one parent will fall behind in child support payments, and the other parent will retaliate by denying access to the child. This is also a violation of Arizona divorce law.
Enforcing a Court Order for Parenting Time
Once you get a Parenting Plan and a court order for your visitation, you have more options than if you did not obtain a court-ordered parenting plan. It is a crime (misdemeanor) for a parent to intentionally violate a court-ordered parenting plan. As a result, one of the options you have is to call the law enforcement department where you should be picking your children up for the start of your parenting plan.
Law enforcement officers are bound to follow the terms of court parenting time orders. Typically, they will inform the parent who is violating those visitation orders that their continued refusal to comply with the court’s orders will result in him or her being arrested for the crime of custodial interference.
That is usually enough to enforce your visitation rights with your children. The downside to this approach is that your children will probably witness the involvement of law enforcement which is not an emotionally healthy experience for them so we discourage that approach if possible.
The other option you have is to file a Motion to Enforce Parenting Time with the court that issued the original parenting time plan orders. You have the option of also requesting that the parent who withheld parenting time be held in contempt of court for intentionally violating the court’s orders.
As a sanction, the court can place a person in jail and/or issue monetary sanctions, such as paying your attorney fees, for violating court orders. The court can even require a parent to post a cash bond with the court which will be forfeited if they continue to violate the court’s orders.
File to Modify Custody of the Children
If the other parent chronically refuses to comply with the court’s parenting time order, you may consider filing to modify custody of the children so that you are the primary residential parent. A court must consider which parent is more likely to cooperate with the other spending time with the children when determining the best custody arrangements for the children.
Enforcing Parenting Time or Custody in Arizona
We want to talk to you about how to enforce parenting time or custody in Arizona. Arizona Law (A.R.S. 25-408) provides “[a] parent not granted custody of the child is entitled to reasonable parenting time rights to ensure that the minor child has frequent and continuing contact with the noncustodial parent.
The only time this does not apply is if, the court finds, after a hearing, that parenting time would endanger the child’s physical, mental, moral or emotional health seriously”. The court will order a parenting schedule the judge feels is in the child’s best interests.
However, some cases involve a parent who attempts to restrict the other parent’s access to the children, now referred to in the psychological community as “gatekeeping” as opposed to the prior term “parental alienation.” The parent who does not follow the parenting time order may be found in contempt of court.
He or she may be required to pay a financial sanction, may be forced to pay a bond through the clerk of the court, which could be forfeited if future violations occur, and, in extreme cases, can be sent to jail for contempt.
That parent may also be assessed attorney’s fees and court costs. The court may also order makeup parenting time to the parent who was denied access to the child. Denial of parenting time is likely to be a major factor supporting a change of custody to the other parent. A parent may even be arrested and charged with a crime by a law enforcement officer for refusing to obey the court’s parenting time orders.
An interesting decision was issued by the Arizona Court of Appeals in Munari v. Hotham regarding whether a stepparent could be held in contempt for violation of a court order for visitation of his or her spouse’s child. The trial judge held the step-parent in contempt of court, which the Court of Appeals overturned because the stepparent was not a party to the child custody case at the time the orders were violated.
This leaves the door open to forcing a step-parent into a child custody case to hold that step-parent in contempt of court for his or her contribution to any violation of child custody or parenting time orders applicable to his or her spouse’s children.
Cases involving the international abduction of a child are governed, among other laws, by the international Hague Convention provision on International Child Abduction in those countries that are recognized as official adopters of the Hague Convention.
Although the international laws associated with the Hague Convention apply to parents who are awarded custody of a child and not, generally, to those parents granted visitation of a child, the Arizona Supreme Court concluded in the Abbott v. Abbott case that the existence of a ne exeat order, which is an order precluding a parent from removing the child from the state and/or country, triggered the provision in the Hague Convention.
If you feel that you are being denied your visitation or parenting time rights wrongfully, get in touch with your Arizona family law attorney. Discussing the details of your situation with an experienced divorce lawyer is the most efficient way to get the parenting time you rightfully deserve restored.
If you have questions about how to enforce parenting time in Arizona, you should seriously consider contacting the attorneys at Hildebrand Law, PC. Our Arizona child custody and family law attorneys have over 100 years of combined experience successfully representing clients in child custody and family law cases.
Our family law firm has earned numerous awards such as US News and World Reports Best Arizona Family Law Firm, US News and World Report Best Divorce Attorneys, “Best of the Valley” by Arizona Foothills readers, and “Best Arizona Divorce Law Firms” by North Scottsdale Magazine.
Call us today at (480)305-8300 or reach out to us through our appointment scheduling form to schedule your personalized consultation and turn your child custody or family law case around today.
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