Determining Parenting Time
Tuft, Lach, Jerabek & O’Connell, PLLC can assist you in resolving parenting time (visitation) issues. The terms “parenting time” and “visitation” are used to reflect parental time with the children. If either parent requests, the court is required to grant parenting time rights to the noncustodial parent to enable the parent and child to maintain a relationship that will be in the best interests of the child. However, if the parenting time is likely to endanger the child’s physical or emotional health or impair the child’s emotional development the court may limit or eliminate parenting time entirely. For example, parenting time could be limited to access supervised by a third-party. The court also has the power to make parenting time contingent upon a parent’s sobriety or compliance with a treatment program or any other factor, which protects the safety and welfare of the minor children.
The court is to establish a specific schedule if requested by either parent. The schedule must address the frequency and duration of parenting time and establish a holiday and vacation schedule. Among the factors to consider in establishing a parenting time schedule, the court must consider whether there is a history of domestic abuse, the age of the child, and the child’s relationship with the noncustodial parent.
If a child is in daycare, the court may allow additional parenting time to the noncustodial parent while the other parent is working if this is reasonable and in the best interest of the child. To make this determination, the court must consider the best interest factors set forth above in addition to
(1) the ability of the parents to cooperate;
(2) methods for resolving disputes; and
(3) whether domestic abuse has occurred between the parents.
Parenting time is an area of frequent post-divorce conflict. It is important to consider how disputes will be resolved. A very common arrangement is to provide that parenting-time disputes shall be subject to mediation. However, Minnesota law now provides for the appointment of a “parenting time expeditor” to resolve on-going disputes over parenting time. By statute, the parenting time expeditor may interpret the parenting time order and mediate to resolve disputes. By agreement, the parenting time expeditor may be given broader authorities such as the authority to order minor adjustments to the parenting time schedule to address the changing needs of the children or special circumstances. Normally, the cost of the parenting time expeditor’s services are shared equally by the parents unless the parenting time expeditor determines that one parent’s conduct contributed unreasonably to the cost of services.
Modifying a Parenting Time Order
If the parents are unable to resolve a parenting time dispute, a motion may be filed with the court to modify custody or parenting time. The standard for modifying parenting time is the best interests of the children. The court may not restrict visitation unless it finds that visitation is likely to endanger the child’s physical or emotional health or impair the child’s emotional development or the noncustodial parent has chronically and unreasonably failed to comply with court ordered visitation. If the custodial parent is alleging that visitation places the child in danger of harm, the court is to schedule a hearing promptly to determine whether the visitation order should be modified.
Sanctions for Violating a Parenting Time Order
If a parent has been denied parenting time, the court may impose a variety of sanctions:
- Compensatory parenting time of the same type and duration as the deprived visit.
- Civil penalty of up to $500.
- Require the depriving party to post a bond.
- Award attorney fees and costs.
- Require reimbursement of costs incurred due to loss of visitation.
- Any other remedy the court finds to be in the best interests of the child involved.
In egregious cases, the court may reverse custody based upon interference with or chronic denial of parenting time.
For more information contact Tuft, Lach, Jerabek & O’Connell, PLLC at 651-771-0050 to schedule a consultation with one of our experienced family law attorneys.