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Contempt - denial of scheduled visitation and other violations of parenting plan

Tacoma, WA |

Can you charge someone contempt for each seperate denial of visitation? For example, an ex states that she wants makeup time for some already time specified in the parenting plan for you. She is interpretating the scheduled time in another way. If she denies the father one of the mid-week visits and then a week later denies a weekend visit, can this be considered 2 contempts? Will the courts bundle them up or what? should i file them independently to ensure they are seen independent or together and ask the court to hand down 2 contempt charges?

Also, the ex has violated other areas of the parenting plan. Is there a time limit on when the occured? For example, 2 - 1 years ago or even 6 months ago? They are not as serious as denying visitation but, definately not following the plan. Can I gather several violations and file them as contempt also? There was one denial of visitation 2 years ago (i did file a police report), not contacting me for joint decision of education, using the child to get information, scheduling events during my time and asking for the child, telling the child to call me by my first name instead of dad, not providing complete sport schedules, and so on

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Filed under: Police interrogation
Attorney answers 1


Great question. If you file for contempt claiming that the other parent failed to do X, Y, and Z, the court will look at it as one contempt. You should put them all together at the time you file because you want the court on your side so they will be more likely to find contempt. If you were to file for one specific incident at at time so that you can get multiple contempt findings, the court would be likely to find that you are acting in bad faith and can deny your motion and make you pay attorney's fees. You also want to remember that the court needs to find bad faith before they find contempt so if the other parent has a legitimate reason for not compliance, the court is unlikely to find contempt. As for the violating other areas of the parenting plan, they are sometimes harder to prove and hard to enforce. There is no time limit but if you want to go to court simply to say that the ex failed to contact you for joint decision making on education one year ago, the court would be less likely to find contempt than if it was an incident last week.

From the way your question is written, it appears that you are aware that if the court finds the other party in contempt at least two times in the past three years for failing to comply with the residential provisions of the parenting plan, it is a basis for modification of the parenting plan. If this is one of your main goals, then you want to do everything that will get the courts on your side. That means not filing for a contempt action for a minor issue, not trying to find a contempt for every single failure. Make it worth the court's time to hear the matter. If you are paying for an attorney, ask yourself whether it is important enough to you to pay the attorney's fees.



This perspective is the problem with visitation issues...."paying for an attorney"..." the attorney's fees". This is because, somehow, the attorney and the courts have colluded that it needs to be bad enough. Listen, the court order wasn't followed - that's bad enough. In Maryland, “When a court . . . makes a finding of contempt, the court shall issue a written order that specifies the sanction imposed for the contempt.” Md. Rule 15-207(d)(2). The reason contempt for visitation issues is downplayed is because there's no margin for lawyers in it. Since there's no money in it, lawyers downplay the issue, refuse to fight aggressively and leave the courthouses with the impression it doesn't matter. It DOES matter. I wish all parents would pursue this to the letter, noting that a child missing court-proscribed visitation has been impacted. At a young age, children associate the visit with a parent's love. If one visitation has been denied (barring exceptional cases) and the offending parent hasn't bent over backwards to "make it up with interest" or assure it won't happen again, it's contempt. You don't need to "get the court on your side"; they're supposed to do their damn jobs by keeping the peace and avoiding anarchy. Otherwise, parents would just show up at each other's homes to take children by force. A court keeps a society civil by dictating a court order, making sure it's equitable (or responding to appellate demands, if not) and enforcing the order. You get less because you accept less.

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