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Parenting Plan Problems

After the divorce, you and your children are ready to move on to a new life with a parenting plan in place. Unfortunately, there are many times when the other parent refuses to comply with the procedure established by the court. Here are some perspectives on the law and actions to consider when the other parent is not following the court-ordered plan.

Intent of the Law

The intention of the state of Washington's permanent parenting plan laws is to provide a framework of continuity for both children and parents. The rules also facilitate a healthy environment where the children's physical and emotional needs are met. As a legal mandate, the parenting plan is also meant to soften children's exposure to further parental conflict.

A Challenging Reality

Although the intent of a parenting plan is to provide stability, many times it can lead to an ex acting like the court order came directly from you. As you struggle to meet your side of the planned visitation schedule to the letter, your ex seems to challenge each point of the parenting plan. You don't know when to count on the other parent's availability or support payments.

First Corrective Steps

If your ex repeatedly:

• Doesn't return your children on time

• Doesn't allow your children to visit you according to the plan

• Attempts to estrange your children from you

• Is not paying child or spousal support

Then you may have grounds to take corrective steps to gain compliance with the plan. Here are some ways to encourage your ex to comply with the court order.

• Registered letter - Sending a registered letter stating the infractions of the plan and asking for compliance is an excellent first step.

• Court alternative - Seeking dispute resolution to gain compliance can be the next step and may be required under your plan.

• Collection service - Accessing the free services of the Department of Social and Health Services Child Support Division can recover unpaid child and spousal support.

• Petition to Modify - Changing a court order may be the best alternative to continued conflict and unfulfilled commitments.

• Motion to clarify - Clarifying a vague court order can diffuse unnecessary anger and lessen parenting disruptions.

Motion of Contempt

Because of the cost and disruption involved, using a motion of contempt to address non-compliance should be used in especially intractable and egregious situations. If the contempt of the parenting plan is entrenched and is causing disruption to you and your children, it can be the best option you have. An experienced family law attorney can advocate for your best interests and give sound guidance.

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