COMMENTARY: Naughty or nice? Parenting time denials explained

By Marie E. Matyjaszek
When I was in high school, I let my younger brother drive us to school one day.  I thought the car was going to flip when he rounded a particularly sharp curve on the highway without slowing down. I asked him why he didn’t follow the speed limit posted on the bright yellow, diamond shaped road sign, and he said, “That’s just a suggestion.” 
Unfortunately, the practice of family law lends itself to hearing that same type of excuse from parents when they fail to follow a court order.  When a judge signs a court order, he doesn’t cross his fingers and think “I hope this works out” (okay, in some cases, I bet that does happen).  The court issues orders, whether by consent of the parties or the court’s decision, because it expects the orders to be followed.  I can guarantee that I’ve never seen an order where it’s terms are merely “a suggestion.”  

A lot of people believe that if their ex decides to unilaterally ignore the parenting time provisions of their court order and deny parenting time, they should call the police.  After all, police enforce the law, right?  Many are often disappointed that the police tell them they won’t get involved in “civil” matters (when was the last time you saw a couple in a family law case be civil?)

If you are denied parenting time, what you should do is contact your Friend of the Court (FOC) and look into what services it offers for parenting time enforcement.  Some offices have a specific employee who handles these issues, and others spread it amongst several employees who may have other functions.  The FOC office that you would contact would be the one located in the same county as your court case.  

Usually, there is a form for the denied parent to complete and provide details as to what his or her side of the story is.  You have to submit the complaint within 56 days of the alleged denial, and many counties require you to have to attempt an actual physical pick up in order to consider it a denial of parenting time.

Once the FOC receives the complaint, your last parenting time order (if applicable) is reviewed. If it appears that you were entitled to parenting time on the day you were denied, a letter is sent out to the alleged offending parent asking for an explanation.  In a perfect world, a timely response is received and the worker can determine if the denial a) actually happened; and b) was justified.  Make-up parenting time can be ordered in accordance with the FOC’s policy; the parents can be called in to a joint meeting to try to work on their issues and devise a better parenting plan; and/or the offending parent can be show caused to explain why he or she denied the time.

Some reasons for invalid denials include not sending the child because he or she did not want to go; the child was sick (unless there is a doctor’s note indicating the child was not to travel at all and was to be on bed rest); bad weather; the child has other plans, etc.

Unfortunately, a lot of parenting time denials occur around the holidays, so be sure to follow up with the FOC to address any issues. Or, write Santa and tell him to add your ex to the naughty list.
Marie E. Matyjaszek is a family law attorney whose blog site is: She can be reached by e-mailing her at