It is frequently asked by parents living under parenting schedules ordered by the Court, what can they do to get the other parent to be more cooperative in last minute or long term plans that conflict with the parenting schedule.
Frankly, there are not that many options. A parent has the right to go to court and seek a “modification” or change to an existing order where they can show “substantial change in circumstances” from the date of issuance of the order. Any change will be deemed a modification for court filing purposes, even if it includes a request to terminate the order. So option (2) is to file a Complaint for Modification of the order or judgment and specify why a change is appropriate and what changes you wish made. In the case of a parenting schedule, a petitioner must include the details of the existing order and what parenting time changes or modifications are requested, e.g. You don’t want to require permission from non-custodial parent for out of state vacations, or you don’t want over-night visits with other parent, or parties shall not UNREASONABLY withhold consent for child activities with other parent, etc.
The Court looks to parents’ ability to resolve internal conflicts as evidence of their parenting skills. Too many of these types of arguments brought before the Court could lead to loss of the custody of the child, in extreme cases, or more typically to court ordered parenting classes at parties expense. The first thing you should try (option 1) is find a solution between yourself and the other parent. That means compromises and barters. Trade something the other parent really wants for what you want–an extra day next weekend, an extra holiday… It can all be negotiated, if the parties are willing.
If that fails, one can try to file an “emergency” Motion to be heard very quickly by the Court before a specific dated event such as a family gathering, a wedding or a planned vacation. A reasonable argument to be made in such an emergency motion is that [Parent] is UNREASONABLY denying an exception to the parenting schedule and refusing to negotiate an alternative, without regard to the best interest of the child. However, a word of caution, this may not be seen by the Court as an “emergency” and may deny you a swift hearing.
It may be worth it to file a complaint for modification to address some of the details that have arisen while the present orders have been in place, which may have been unforeseen at the time of the judgment or order. If you find that you are persistently having these type of communication break downs, it may be time to revisit your present orders.
Lastly, if either party chooses, unilaterally, NOT to abide by the schedule order, they run the risk of being charged with contempt of court. Do so at your own peril.
Comments based on Massachusetts Domestic Relations Law. Not provided as legal advice.
Estela Matta, Esq.