My ex and I stopped following the parenting plan, now what?

With so many divorced parents and blended families out there, parenting conflicts arise frequently. If you’re divorced or separated from your child’s other parent, your experience might range from pleasant co-parenting to all-out conflict. Oftentimes, parents will deviate from the parenting time agreement, only to find that one parent suddenly wants to go back to it. Here’s what can often happen when a person finds themself in this situation.

Family Law Agreement

A family law agreement is a legally binding contract. That implies you must follow its instructions. You can file it in the appropriate court (in New Hampshire this is the Family Division of the District Court). Once approved by a Judge (most are), then it becomes a court order. Alternatively, if the case goes to trial, the Judge’s final decision is the court order. 

If you break a court order or agreement, you must know that:

  • The other party can take you to court to enforce it, and you could face serious consequences.

The kinds of things that can happen if you don’t obey the court order are determined by:

  • what type of order or agreement you aren’t following, 
  • what part of it you aren’t following,
  • what court made the order or what court the agreement is filed in, and
  • what your alleged justification is for ignoring the order

If you believe that you are justified in not following a court order, the best thing to do is to file a motion to change it. If it is an emergency, you can request that the motion be ruled on immediately (often called an “ex parte” motion). Simply violating the court order without trying to change it shows disrespect to the Court and could have the exact opposite result that you want.

Here’s what you can do if you and your ex stopped following the parenting plan years ago and now they suddenly are taking you to court:

Consult A Family Law Attorney

When the other parent stops following the Parenting Plan and suddenly takes you to court, a lawyer can help you understand your choices. Judges and the process are familiar to lawyers. A lawyer can assist you in determining which facts are most crucial and relevant in your case. A lawyer can assist you in understanding how to present evidence in court. A lawyer can also help you comprehend the laws that a court will consider while deciding your case.

Stick To Your Lawyer’s Advice

Following your lawyer’s advice is always a good choice. If you don’t comprehend something, ask questions. Following your lawyer’s advice will usually save you time, money, and stress while keeping you out of trouble.

Gather Evidence

Unless your lawyer advises otherwise, gathering evidence that the other parent stopped following the parenting plan and is suddenly taking you to court may be good. There are various types of evidence. You can keep track of your calls. Include the date, time, and location where the exchange was meant to occur. Bring a witness who can testify that the other parent also stopped following the Parenting Plan. Evidence could include text or internet messages. Talking to a lawyer about what kind of evidence will benefit you, how to obtain it, and how to submit it to the court is a smart idea.

Prepare Court Documents

Before filing court papers, you should consult with an attorney. Listen to your lawyer’s recommendations before, during, and after you file court paperwork. A written motion for a hearing to for contempt or to “bring forward” are usually the court papers you file. 

Prepare Yourself For Your Hearing

A hearing is a formal meeting between both parents and the court. The court will issue the date, time.  and duration for the hearing. In most cases, the order will include information regarding the hearing. 

You’ll want to stay focused on the hearing’s topic and avoid bringing up extraneous concerns. If the judge sets a contempt hearing, the hearing will usually be about the parents’ Motion and Response. Make sure you read and understand the Motion and exhibits you filed and any court filings filed by the other parent in response.

The judge has the authority to examine both parents about the facts and legal arguments they presented in the Motion and Response. This is usually done directly by the litigants or by the attorneys in what is called an “offer of proof”. Whether you will have the opportunity to testify, or your attorney speaks entirely for you, depends on the court and how much time is allotted. Either way you should have the right to submit evidence in support of your case. You often may also have the chance to interrogate the other parent (or your lawyer, if you have one). Cross-examination occurs when one parent asks the other parent. If they have one, the other parent (or their attorney) will have the same opportunity.

If you need help on a family law case or custody case in Concord, New Hampshire, contact us. We can answer any questions you have and ensure we work toward the most favorable outcome possible.


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