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Is it ever OK to deny your former spouse their parenting time?

During your divorce, you might have sought and received primary parenting time due to your former spouse’s conduct. Despite their issues, you likely hoped your children could continue their relationship with them in some form. Yet, your former spouse’s struggles might have worsened since your divorce, and you may now wonder if they should have access to your children at all. Denying them their court-ordered parenting time, though, could come with serious consequences.

The danger of denying parenting time

You cannot withhold your children from your former spouse during their court-ordered parenting time. Even if they have conduct issues, or are behind on child support, you must follow the arrangement set forth in your parenting plan. By keeping your children from your former spouse, you could be held in contempt of court, which can come with legal, financial and custodial penalties.

If you believe your former spouse’s conduct is a bad influence on – or harmful to – your children, you will want to file a motion to modify parenting time. It is unlikely that your former spouse will lose their access to your children altogether as a result of this motion. But the court could order that their parenting happen under supervision or come with restrictions.

Accounting for emergency situations

It is possible that your former spouse’s conduct could immediately put your children’s safety and well-being at risk. This may be the case if they have physically or sexually abused them, abused alcohol or drugs in front of them or neglected them. Rather than withholding parenting time from your former spouse, though, you must file an emergency motion. This motion will temporarily restrict or suspend their parenting time, depending on the nature of their actions. A hearing addressing your emergency motion will occur within 14 days of your filing of it. During the hearing, the court will determine whether permanent parenting time modifications are necessary.

If your former spouse’s conduct puts your children at risk, it is important to understand how you can protect them. By consulting a family law attorney, you can determine the appropriate course of action for keeping your children safe.


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