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Enforcing Court Orders Regarding Parenting Time: contempt is not your only option

So, you have orders regarding parenting time, but what do you do when a party is not complying with Court’s Orders regarding parenting time? You could proceed with a Motion for Issuance of a Citation for Contempt of Court (also known as “contempt”), but it may not get you the results that you need to put an end to the conflict moving forward. A finding of contempt may serve as a slap on the wrist to the person violating the court order, but it may not produce permanent change. There is another legal tool in the toolshed that can help you to enforce your parenting time orders and provides for an array of remedies that are not available with contempt.

So, what is the difference?

CONTEMPT

There are two different types of remedies that you can seek in a contempt action: remedial sanctions and punitive sanctions. Remedial sanctions seek to make a person “whole” in the event that the Court does make a finding of contempt. Punitive sanctions seek to punish the person who violated the court order. An example of a remedial sanction with respect to parenting time may be “make up parenting time” for time that was missed or denied, while a punitive sanction could be jail time. Most often, when it comes to parenting time matters, people pursue remedial sanctions.

To prove remedial contempt, you must be able to show the Court the following:

1) There was a valid court order; and
2) The other party had knowledge of the order; and
3) The other party violated the Court order; and
4) The other party has the present ability to comply with the Court order.

You cannot change the parenting plan through an action of contempt, and you cannot turn back time to make the other party co-parent better. Contempt also takes a significant amount of time (generally several months before you are in court), and it can be quite costly. If, for example, the violation that you seek to remedy was a day of missed parenting time, this might not be the most effective means of addressing your concerns.

MOTION CONCERNING PARENTING TIME DISPUTES

In the alternative, you can file a Motion Concerning Parenting Time Disputes (C.R.S. § 14-10-129.5), more commonly known as a “Motion to Enforce”, which provides the Court with different types of remedies that may enable you to resolve or remedy disputes moving forward. Let’s say your Co-Parent moves from the Denver metro area to a mountain town several hours away and you have a school aged child. You could file a Motion for Citation for Contempt, however, the end result may simply be a finding that the person did in fact violate the order, and perhaps an award of attorney fees to you. It won’t, however, fix the problem.

If you file a Motion Regarding Parenting Time Disputes pursuant to C.R.S. 14-10-129.5, however, if the Court finds that a parent has not complied with a parenting time order or schedule, the Court can issue Orders that can include the following remedies:

-An order imposing additional terms and conditions with the Court’s previous orders
-An order modifying the previous orders to meet the best interests of the child
-An order requiring either parent or both to attend a parenting education class at the expense of the non-complying parent
-An order requiring the parties to participate in family counseling at the expense of the non-complying parent
-An order requiring the violator to post bond or security to ensure future compliance
-An order requiring makeup parenting time for the parent whose time was infringed upon
-An order finding the parent who did not comply with the parenting time schedule in contempt of court and imposing a fine or jail sentence
-An order imposing a civil fine of $100 per incident of denied parenting time on the non-complying parent
-An order scheduling a hearing for a modification of the existing order concerning custody or allocation of parental responsibilities should there be a motion pending
-An order that may promote the best interest of the child or children involved.

Depending on your circumstances, a Motion Concerning Parenting Time Disputes when a parent is not complying with parenting time Orders may be more advantageous and may produce better results than a Motion for Contempt. Not only is a Motion Concerning Parenting Time Disputes more efficient (the court should prioritize these motions on their docket), but can potentially save you the need for future litigation, as the Court has the opportunity to fashion a more appropriate solution than simply holding a party in contempt.

If you are dealing with a co-parent who is not complying with Court Orders, you should know that the skilled attorneys at GEM Family Law are ready to assist you. Call 303-317-3239 to schedule your free consultation today.

Authored by: Anthony Zarsky, Associate Attorney