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 court 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 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 the 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 he or she 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.
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.
Chris Hildebrand wrote this article about how to enforce parenting time orders in Arizona to ensure everyone has access to information about child custody laws in Arizona. Chris is a family law attorney at Hildebrand Law, PC. He has over 24 years of Arizona family law experience and has received multiple awards, including US News and World Report “Top Arizona Divorce Attorneys”, Phoenix Magazine “Top Divorce Law Firms”, and Arizona Foothills Magazine “Best of the Valley” award. He believes the policies and procedures he uses to get his clients through a child custody case should all be guided by the principles of honesty, integrity, and actually caring about what his clients are going through.