Sharing custody of a child can be stressful even under the best circumstances. One of the most challenging times of the year for many co-parents is summer vacation, where custody sharing requirements can change and scheduling often becomes more difficult for everyone involved.
Today, we're exploring different ways parents can share custody over the summer in Virginia, and what you should do if your co-parent refuses to share custody of your child with you.
To schedule a consultation with one of our experienced child custody attorneys, contact us online or via phone at (757) 267-4949.
What If My Co-Parent Refuses to Share Custody?
In most joint custody arrangements (where both parents have legal and physical custody of their child), Virginia courts mandate that the child sees both parents consistently.
In some joint custody arrangements, that may mean the child spends an almost equal amount of time living with each parent. In others, there may be a greater disparity in the time the child spends living with or visiting the noncustodial parent when compared to the custodial parent.
Regardless, both parents have a right to house or visit their child depending on the terms of their custody order. If one parent denies the other their visitation rights, they are violating the terms of their custody order.
If your co-parent refuses to honor the terms of a court-established visitation arrangement, you have a few options:
- Negotiate with them. If possible, you can discuss terms for a different visitation arrangement with your co-parent. If you reach an agreement for a visitation order that works better for both parties and your child, you can request a custody modification to change the terms of your current visitation order.
- Call the police or local child abduction unit. If you are worried that your co-parent may harm your child or intends to abduct them, you can contact law enforcement professionals to help ensure your child is safe.
- File a custody enforcement case with your local court. If a judge agrees that the other parent is violating the terms of your custody arrangement, they can take a number of actions to address the situation.
If your co-parent:
- Refuses to exchange custody as per the terms of your visitation arrangement;
- Tries to interfere with your visitation time;
- Refuses to act in the child's best interests, such as avoiding taking them to the doctor or counseling sessions;
- Engages in substance abuse or other actions such as child abuse or neglect;
- Or chronically shows up late or early for custody exchanges;
You may wish to file a custody enforcement case with the court. If the court agrees that your co-parent has violated the terms of the custody arrangement, they may:
- Find them in contempt of the court, resulting in fines or even jail time;
- Award you additional custody for days you missed;
- Modify the terms of your custody arrangement to better fit your needs;
- Order the other parent to pay for your court costs and lawyer's fees.
In any custody case, the court's primary concern will always be the child's wellbeing and best interests. The court will determine what's best for the child, and then attempt to facilitate an arrangement that enables them to thrive.
How Should I Share Custody Over the Summer?
Sharing custody over the summer can be challenging.
At the outset of your custody order, you should determine how you and your parent intend to handle holidays such as Mother's Day or Father's Day. Taking care of holidays ahead of time avoids awkward situations later down the line where one party gets the other a gift they weren't expecting or wants to split a holiday the other parent would like to spend alone with their child.
After you think about holidays, it's time to think about how you want to handle day-to-day custody.
Many parents rely on school as a form of childcare during the school year, especially if they work a traditional 9-5. Without school to occupy your child, you should discuss opportunities like summer camps and childcare with your co-parent if neither of you can be at home during the day to watch your child and they're not old enough to look after themself. You may also consider having a relative, such as a grandparent, look after them. Whatever you decide, it's important that both parents are comfortable with the arrangement.
Many parents choose to extend visitation time over the summer so that each parent may have custody for a few weeks or even a month at a time. For some parents, the summer is the only time they'll have custody of their child during the year, so being able to spend a significant amount of time with them is important.
If you and your co-parent have different work schedules (for example, one parent regularly travels for work or handles the night shift), figuring out a custody arrangement that works for both parties may be more difficult. Considering an alternative arrangement, such as switching off custody every three or four days in an alternating fashion, may help you get around awkward work schedules more easily.
Last but not least, many parents choose to take vacations over the summer. If you want to bring your child along for a vacation, make sure to let your parent know as far in advance as possible. Having events planned ahead of time enables you to ensure you and your co-parent can share custody equitable and they get their own vacation with your child at some point.
At the Law Offices of Daniel J. Miller, we know your children mean the world to you. Our child custody attorneys can help you develop the perfect parenting plan for you and your co-parent, working with you to draft a parenting plan that enables your child to thrive.
To schedule a consultation with our team and get the legal counsel you deserve, contact us online or via phone at (757) 267-4949.