Of all the precious things you may lose throughout your lifetime, some are recoverable, and some are truly gone forever. Unfortunately, lost time with your child is not something you can get back once you lose it. For parents who share custody, parenting time is certainly precious and deserves protection.
Sadly, some parents steal parenting time from each other or attempt to manipulate and control the other’s parent-child relationship. If this behavior happens repeatedly, or if it is a serious violation, it may be parenting time interference. Parents who violate the other’s parental rights may face a number of penalties, from losing privileges and having to make up for stolen time, to possibly serving jail time.
Your time with your child is something you should protect, especially if your child’s other parent regularly steals your time or undermines your parent-child relationship. Many parents do not know that they have legal tools they can use to protect these rights, but the law understands that few things can bring out bad behavior in a parent like conflicts involving their child and the other parent.
What is direct interference?
Direct interference is typically more serious than indirect interference, and the penalties for this bad behavior are typically heavier. One parent who keeps the other from physically spending parenting time with their child commits direct interference, although courts do look closely at circumstances before making a ruling.
A common example of direct interference occurs if one parent does not show up on time to transfer their child to the other parent. If the late parent faces circumstances beyond their control, such as an unexpected emergency, then it may not count as interference. However, when a parent habitually shows up late or forgets about custody transfers or visitation, this may count as direct interference. More extreme forms of direct interference may include a parent who leaves the state or country with their child, without the knowledge or consent of the other parent. Depending on the details, this may result in parental kidnapping charges.
Some parents prefer to manipulate the other parent’s relationship with their child. This behavior is more difficult to document and prove to a court, but it is still illegal and can result in serious penalties.
Broadly speaking, behavior that prevents the other parent from communicating with their child or casts the other parent in a negative light is potential indirect interference. One parent should not keep the child from speaking to the other parent on the phone, for instance, or say negative things about the other parent in front of the child.
Most parenting plans include restrictions against this behavior, so it is always wise to review your parenting plan before taking legal action. Your plan may outline penalties for certain behavior, which is a good guide for resolving these conflicts.
Ultimately, time with your child is one the most valuable, irreplaceable things that you will ever have. Make sure to protect it properly, so that you can continue to build a strong relationship with the child you love and raise them in a way you believe is best.