For many parents, the hardest thing about going through a divorce is having reduced time with their children. When your spouse has custody during the divorce, he or she could refuse to allow you reasonable visitation or parenting time. That can leave you feeling isolated and angry. Thankfully, state law in Washington protects your rights as a parent, including your right to a relationship with your children.
There are a few exceptions, including cases of abuse, abandonment, addiction or other extenuating circumstances that can impact parental rights. For example, physical or sexual abuse of the children could preclude receiving visitation or parenting time. Barring any of these more extreme circumstances, however, most parents have the right to enjoy an ongoing relationship with their children, even if their ex has custody of the children.
Why would someone deny parenting time?
There are a number of reasons why someone may refuse parenting time or visitation. Your spouse may feel angry with or hurt by you. This can lead to him or her trying to hurt you by cutting you off from the children. Other times, it could be a punishment for infidelity or any other real or perceived slight from during your marriage.
Whatever the reasoning, it's important that you react responsibly. Do your best to remain calm while asking if you can reschedule. If your ex won't communicate with you or refuses to reschedule after canceling visitation or your parenting weekend, be sure to take note of what happened, what was said, what reasoning was given and whether you ever got to make up that time.
What options do you have for enforcement?
If your divorce is still underway, your ex refusing to share custody and allow your parenting time could help your case for custody. Documenting each denial can help you prove the issue. The courts will always seek to make custody and parenting arrangements with the best interests of the child at heart.
Generally speaking, excluding certain extreme situations, the best interest of the children involved will typically include having an ongoing relationship with both parents. If one parent doesn't prioritize the best interests of the children, the courts will consider that when making final custody decisions.
If your divorce is already finalized, then there is a court order regarding your parenting plan or visitation and custody agreement. You can file a motion, which in family law cases like divorces, is called ""coercive civil contempt."" Contempt in this scenario means failing to comply with a court order, which could involve refusing visitation or parenting time or failing to require a child to visit with the other parent. The courts will step in and enforce your right to visitation.