In almost every case, divorce is difficult for couples with children. While spouses who choose to divorce before they have children may essentially leave each other’s lives for good, parents must find a way to end their marriage but hold their family together, and this can prove one of the most difficult experiences of a lifetime.

In an ideal world, both parents approach their responsibility to raise their child with patience and civility, respecting each other’s rights as parents and focusing on the needs of their child above their own preferences. However, this is rarely how the experience plays out, especially in the first few years of learning to share parenting time.

In some cases, parents may ignore their custody schedule or disregard the parenting rights of the other parent. If these violations go on over a period of time, or if they are very serious, a court may step in and punish the offending parent. These punishments may involve losing parental privileges, or potentially more serious remedies like criminal charges.

Document your time concerns carefully

If your child’s other parent behaves in ways that you believe violate your parental rights, it is wise to document this behavior in detail. If a parent is late to drop off a child because roads were unexpectedly blocked off for construction, that is one thing. If a parent repeatedly shows up late to exchange custody, this behavior steals away your parenting time. You should carefully make notes about the time and date when this behavior occurs, to see if you can identify patterns.

When the other parent arrives, make note of the time and the reason why they are late. Over time, you can make a clear case for yourself, and can help a court understand exactly how much time you lost. This is known as direct parenting time interference.

Manipulation of your parent-child relationship

Even if your child’s other parent does not steal your parenting time, they may still undermine your relationship with your child. This, too, may be intentional or unintentional, but it is all unacceptable.

If the other parent speaks negatively about you to your child, this qualifies as indirect parenting time interference. A parent may commit indirect interference whenever they seek to manipulate the other parent’s relationship with their child, or to obstruct communication with the child.

Protecting your rights to time with your child is an important responsibility, because the time you miss with the child you love is time you can never get back. Make sure that you have a clear understanding of these rights and the tools you have to protect them as you navigate the complicated terrain of coparenting.