What Can Happen When a Parent Violates a Parenting Plan?

Florida requires parents who are divorcing or are subject to a paternity action to have a parenting plan in place.  A parenting plan can be agreed to or simply entered by the court.  However, once the plan is entered into the court as an order, it is enforceable through the court system.  Violations of parenting plans can be insignificant, or they can lead to great interference with the rights of a parent and a child.

In Florida, timesharing is taken into account in calculating child support for a parent that exercises at least twenty percent of the overnights with a child.  Florida’s child support guidelines specifically account for such.  However, not every parent takes advantage of all of the overnights that they are awarded.  Normally, you cannot retroactively adjust child support.  However, failure for a parent to exercise substantial timesharing can have a serious economic impact on that parent, as the Florida Statutes authorize retroactive adjustments.

A parent’s failure to regularly exercise the time-sharing schedule set forth in the parenting plan, a court-ordered time-sharing schedule, or a time-sharing arrangement exercised by agreement of the parties not caused by the other parent which resulted in the adjustment of the amount of child support pursuant to subparagraph (a)10. or paragraph (b) shall be deemed a substantial change of circumstances for purposes of modifying the child support award. A modification pursuant to this paragraph is retroactive to the date the noncustodial parent first failed to regularly exercise the court-ordered or agreed time-sharing schedule. F.S. 61.30(11)(C). 

In one of my cases over the last 2 or 3 years, a father who earned just above minimum wage was hit with a $15,000 negative adjustment to his child support balance because he failed to exercise any timesharing with his children following his divorce.  In that case, the impact of a father who failed to exercise any timesharing had a serious affect on that father’s financial circumstances.  When I inquired as to why that client failed to take advantage of his court ordered timesharing, he informed me that his former wife poisoned the children’s minds and made the timesharing unsatisfying.  Assuming this client had proof that such took place, his former wife would not have been able to obtain the adjustment that she had.  Here, arguably, the former wife violated the parenting plan.  However, the former husband’s inaction in enforcing his parental rights in the early stage of divorce resulted in training his former wife that she could act with impunity.  Had the former husband recorded the former wife’s bad acts in a composition book when they happened, the book would likely become evidence that the court could consider.  The court considers factors that concern the health and safety of the child and the acts of the non conforming parent.  One of the factors that I have seen the court weigh heavily has been, which parent will promote a positive relationship between the child or children ad the other parent.

There are a wide range of actions that a judge can take against a parent for violating a parenting plan.  The court may require the non-compliant parent to attend parenting classes.  He or she may grant additional time sharing with the child to compensate for any time that was denied.  A court may consider modifying the parenting plan and permanently changing the timesharing arrangement that is in place (this may require a formal petition to modify the final judgment).  In severe cases, the court may hold an offending parent in contempt of court.  In many cases, the court will require an offending parent to pay the other parent’s legal fees and costs for having to bring the matter before the court.

If your former spouse or significant other is violating a parenting plan, the best response you can take is to call a Jacksonville child custody attorney that will assist you in preparing an enforcement action.  It is improper to use children to retaliate against the other parent.  You can, however, choose a skilled and experienced child custody attorney to guide you through the maze of confusion when a laymen attempts to navigate the legal system.

About the author

Neil Weinreb is a Florida licensed attorney who has been practicing family law for over 15 years in North Florida.  Mr. Weinreb works for the Law Office of David M. Goldman in Jacksonville, Florida.  Mr. Weinreb has worked as an adjunct professor teaching law to paralegal students at Jones College in Jacksonville, Florida.  You can contact Mr. Weinreb at the Law Office of David M. Goldman for a free initial consultation today to find out how having an experienced attorney on your side can help.  Call (904) 685-1200 today.


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