Battles over child custody and visitation are common occurrences during divorce that ultimately require parents to work together in order to preserve the interests of the child. At the least, most parents realize that compromise and cooperation are needed for the sake of the child; but what about parents who will not cooperate and refuse to abide by the orders of the court on this issue? One extreme example of this problem appears in a news story out of Orange County where a father attempted to burn down his house with both himself and daughter in it to avoid returning the girl to her mother. The father had summer visitation rights with his daughter, and as the date approached that would end the visit, the father indicated he did not intend to relinquish custody. Although this father’s response is outside the norm, it is important for parents, both during and after divorce, to know how to respond to an ex-spouse trying to withhold visitation rights. In addition to physically visiting with a child, the court may also order supplemental electronic communication between child and parent that is subject to the same consequences if violated. A discussion of how electronic communication works and the legal options available when one parent denies court-ordered parenting time to the other will appear below.Electronic Communication
In an effort to facilitate as much interaction between parent and child as possible, the court may order electronic communication as a part of visitation rights. However, electronic communication is not a replacement for physical, in-person visits and cannot be the only method of visitation between parent and child.
The presumption is that electronic communication is in the best interests of the child, although, that presumption is rebuttable. Factors the court will take into consideration when including electronic communication in parenting include the availability and affordability of electronic communication for each parent and a parent’s history of substance or domestic abuse. If there are additional costs to set up the communication, the court will allocate the costs between the parents according to the ability of each to pay for the expense.Consequences of Denying Parenting Time
As a preliminary note, a parent cannot deny the other visitation due to a parent’s failure to pay court-ordered alimony or child support. Additionally, a parent denied visitation rights is still obligated to continue paying support to the custodial parent.
Florida law gives the court several options to respond with when a parent violates visitation orders without cause, including and up to contempt of court. In addition to contempt of court, the court may:
- give the parent denied visitation time extra time to compensate for what was missed. The extra time should be scheduled at the time most convenient for the non-offending parent and at the expense of the offending parent;
- order the offending parent to pay the court costs and attorney fees of the non-offending parent acquired during efforts to enforce the visitation schedule;
- order the parent who did not adhere to the parenting time schedule to attend a court-approved parenting class;
- order the offending parent to perform community service as long as it does not affect the welfare of the child;
- modify the parenting plan in favor of the non-offending parent; and
- require the parent who denied visitation to shoulder the expense of facilitating visitation if the other parent lives more than 60 miles away.
If you are a parent fighting to see your child, working with an attorney is the most effective way to bring a quick resolution to the situation and reunite you with your child. The Fort Lauderdale attorneys at Stok Kon + Braverman have the experience in parenting time issues needed to assist you with your case. Contact us today to schedule a consultation.