When two parents choose to raise their child separately, most choose to protect their rights by establishing a custody order through a court. If the parents were married and get divorced, the courts require them to create a parenting plan and reach a custody agreement as part of the divorce process, which the courts take very seriously.
Many parents do not have a firm understanding of just how important it is to obey a custody order, and may assume that the custody schedule is more of a suggestion than a legally binding order. Some parents may work together to create their own "home-brew" custody order, agreeing that as long as they both work together, disobeying a custody order is acceptable.
In truth, all parents face difficulty adjusting to the strains of sharing custody of a child, and it is tempting to modify the order to fit one or both parents' needs or preferences. This is unwise for a number of reasons, and, in serious instances, may lead to criminal charges and loss of parental privileges.
Not only may courts punish parents if they see them disobeying a custody plan, one parent can always use the other parent's behavior violating the custody order as leverage against them later on.
Parenting time is a right worth protecting
The schedule of parenting time that a custody order outlines protects the best interests of the child as well as the rights of each parent to parenting time or visitation. While life does not always make it easy to follow a custody schedule, courts do not care for parents who make their own modifications.
It is one thing to have a flat tire or some other emergency that makes it implausible to do a custody swap at a certain time. It is quite another for a parent to regularly show up late or cancel custody days. Courts believe that each parent's time with their child is a right to protect, and may punish a parent who obstructs the other parent's court-ordered time with their child.
Make modifications the right way
Often, a custody order simply does not function for one or both parents. This does not mean that the parent must endure a bad parenting time schedule until their child reaches adulthood. Courts understand that custody orders regularly require modification, and typically approve modifications as long as the reasons are properly justified and the parent requests the modification officially.
Parents who attempt to modify their own custody terms may land themselves in contempt of court, which makes it much more difficult to obtain an official modification. It is always wise to go through the proper procedures to modify a parenting plan or custody order, both for the parents and for their child. This method keeps everything official and maintains both parents in good standing with the court.
If you have issues concerning your custody arrangement with your child's other parent, or if you suspect that the other parent is violating your rights, take time to assess your legal options. You must use all the legal tools available to protect your rights, for your own sake and for the best interests of the child you love.