Enforcing Custody and Parenting Time Orders

“My ex never brings the children to exchanges on time.  They are always at least 30 minutes late, or sometimes it’s the next day.”

“My ex doesn’t bring back my son after parenting time.  What can I do?” 

One of the most frequent complaints by parties relating to orders for custody and parenting time is that one – or both – sides are not following the court order. 

The law provides for several remedies in these situations and there are forms available on the Minnesota Judicial Branch website for the remedies discussed.  Please note that these remedies assume that there is already an order in place. 

  • Enforcement:  It is easier to enforce a more specific order (for instance, every Wednesday evening from 6:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m.), rather than a general provision (for instance "reasonable parenting time.") 
  • Motion for Parenting Time Assistance:  Either party can seek makeup (or “compensatory”) parenting time if there have been repeated and intentional denials or interference with parenting time. A party seeking relief under this section can also seek reimbursement of any costs associated with the lost parenting time, including attorneys’ fees, a civil penalty of up to $500 (which goes to the Court, not the party), or “any other remedy in the best interest of the children.”
  • Contempt:  Either party can seek to hold the other side in contempt of court for not following specific provision of a custody or parenting time order.
  • Criminal Charges:  In extreme cases, a person can be charged with state and/or federal crimes for kidnapping or deprivation of parental rights. The decision of whether or not to bring charges is made by a prosecuting authority (local, state, or federal) and is not addressed in the family court file. 

There are a couple of important things to keep in mind when dealing with issues relating to enforcing a custody or parenting time order. 

  • A court can order that a police officer or other appropriate person accompany a party or help enforce an order, but it must be specifically stated in the court order. 
  • Proof of persistent and unwarranted denial of or interference with court-ordered parenting time is a factor considered by the court and can be a basis to modify custody. 
  • Failure to pay child support is not a basis to withhold parenting time.
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