There are many ways that parents may make each other's lives difficult while sharing custody or visitation rights. In most cases, even those where a divorce or separation is amicable, this is to be expected in some form or another. However, the innate difficulty of sharing parenting time does not excuse behavior that violates the other parent's rights.
If one parent does violate the other's rights surrounding time with the child or communicating and relationship building, this may constitute parenting time interference. Parental interference is a serious matter to the courts, and may entail consequences for the offending parent, including loss of parenting privileges and even criminal charges.
If you and your child's other parent face conflicts surrounding parenting time, remember that you may have more legal options for enforcing your custody order than you realize. An experienced attorney can help you examine your circumstances through the lens of the law and determine strong strategies you can use to keep your rights and the rights of your child protected.
Direct and indirect interference
In general, parental interference breaks down into two categories, direct and indirect interference. Direct interference involves one parent physically preventing the child and the parent from spending time together.
Direct interference may take many forms, and, in some cases, is not even intentional. If, for instance, one parent consistently forgets about visitation days or fails to drop off a child at the agreed time, this may qualify as parental interference even if it is merely the byproduct of poor time management. If one parent acts in any way that keeps the other from spending court-ordered time with the child, it may qualify as direct interference.
Indirect interference is more flexible in its definition. One parent may indirectly interfere with the other's parenting time by obstructing the channels of communication between parent and child, or by speaking poorly of the other parent in front of the child.
If your child's other parent attempts to limit your communication with the child or manipulate your relationship with the child, this may qualify as indirect interference.
What can you do?
If you are still working through the custody process, it may prove useful to add language to your custody agreement that specifically forbids parental interference, outlining the potential remedies if one parent does violate the rights of the other. If you are well past that point, the court may recognize your plight with a proper petition and address the other parent appropriately.
An experienced attorney can help you examine each side of your conflict and help you chart a course to better parenting for the child you love.