English Español


"What should I do when the other parent does not come to custody exchanges?"

It can be very disappointing, frustrating and even frightening when a parent does not follow all court orders related to custody exchanges. Here are some things parents have done as a result of problems with custody exchanges:

  • Be on time every time! Leave early if you need to in order to make sure traffic does not prevent you from arriving on time to the exchange. Once one parent arrives late or misses a custody exchange, the other parent can start feeling like it is okay for him/her to arrive late or occasionally miss an exchange.
  • Keep a stamped copy of your current court ordered parenting plan with you at all times, most importantly during any custody exchange.
  • If there is not a criminal protective order or restraining order in place preventing communication between the parents, text or email the other parent a reminder a day or two in advance of exchanges. For example, "Just confirming that I will be picking up the children at 6:00pm on Sunday evening at your home. I will text you when I arrive and wait in the car per our court order. Thank you."
  • Print out a copy of all text messages or emails you send to and receive from the other parent and place them in a binder along with a stamped/certified copy of your current court order. Also include in your binder a log of each exchange and whether you or the other parent was late for an exchange. You might also include a brief reason for the late exchange (e.g. "Father arrived at 6:25pm instead of 6:00pm for today’s custody exchange. Father said he was stuck in terrible traffic on Highway 680. I checked traffic on my phone, and it did indicate very bad traffic on that stretch of highway.")
  • If there is not a criminal protective order or restraining order in place preventing communication between the parents, respectfully tell the other parent in a text or email what actions you will take to prevent late arrivals or missed custody exchanges in the future. For example, "It is very concerning when you do not arrive for custody exchanges. If you do not arrive on time for our next exchange this Wednesday at 6:00pm at the Martinez Walmart Parking lot, I will be contacting the police for help enforcing our court ordered parenting plan. I know both of us hate the thought of the police getting involved with us and our children, but it is unacceptable to miss my court ordered parenting time. Thank you."
  • As a last resort, parents sometimes call the police to the location of a custody exchange for help with enforcement of the court ordered parenting plan. If law enforcement does not offer any assistance, parents often ask for a written police report. Parents sometime include these police reports in court documents to let the judge know about problems with custody exchanges.
  • If you are represented by an attorney, you might consider speaking to your attorney about a parent repeatedly failing to follow court orders. You may want to hire a lawyer to help you with your case. If you cannot afford a lawyer to handle your whole court case, you may hire one to help you with parts of the case, like checking over court forms or attending a court hearing. If you have very low income, you may qualify for free legal aid. For more information about legal services in Contra Costa including the court’s Family Law Facilitator program, please go to: http://www.cc-courts.org/general/legal-referral.aspx
  • Parents sometimes file the necessary court documents (e.g. Request for Order) to ask the court to modify the current parenting plan in order prevent missed or late custody exchanges in the future.

"My child refuses to go with the other parent, and I won’t use force to make the child go."

You expect your children to go to school, do their homework, brush their teeth, clean up after themselves, etc. You must have the same expectation about time with the other parent. Try not to use the word "force" with all its negativity. Instead, use the positive word "expect". "I expect you to go with your mother/father – we both do." Following a court order is not optional for you or your children. Use both positive and negative consequences to motivate your children to spend time with the other parent. Remember that failure to comply with a court order or failing to support the other parent's relationship with your children can result in a parent's custodial time being reduced or even eliminated by a judge.

For more information on helping reluctant children spend time with parents, please read "Don't Use Force" by Bill Eddy, LCSW, Esq.
http://www.highconflictinstitute.com/articles/parenting-a-divorce-articles/78-hci-articles/published-articles/96-dont-use-force

"The other parent isn't letting me take the children on vacation/holiday."

It is very important to carefully follow all parts of your court ordered parenting plan. Almost all of the time, court orders state that holiday time and scheduled vacations take precedence over the other parent's regular custodial time. Parents are often ordered to give each other advance notice that they will be using some vacation days (e.g. sending an email at least 30 days prior to taking a vacation with the children), but very rarely do parents need permission from the other parent to take a vacation or travel out of the area. Usually the only time a parent needs permission from the other parent or court order is when travelling outside of the United States.

Here are some things parents have done to avoid problems with holidays and vacations:

  • Email the other parent as far in advance as possible of your vacation plans. Include a request for written confirmation from the other parent. For example, send an email months in advance such as, "This Winter Break I will be using three vacation days on December 21st, 22nd and 23rd in addition to my regular holiday of December 24th to take the kids to my mom's for Christmas. We will be driving to her home at 123 Main Street in Reno, Nevada. I will text you when we arrive to make sure you know we arrived safely and I'll have my cell phone with me the whole time in case of an emergency. I plan to pick the kids up at 9:00am from you on the 21st and have them back at our usual exchange time of 1:00pm on Christmas Day. Could you please confirm your receipt of this vacation itinerary by email? Thanks very much!"
  • Print out a copy of all text messages or emails you send to or receive from the other parent regarding holidays/vacations and place them in a binder. Parents sometimes file copies of these emails and text messages with their court documents to let the judge know about problems with holidays or vacations.
  • As a last resort, parents sometimes call the police to the location of a custody exchange to request help with enforcement of the court ordered parenting plan. If a peace office responds, parents often ask for a written police report. These reports are sometimes included in filled court paperwork to document problems with custody exchanges.
  • If you are represented by an attorney, you might consider speaking to your attorney about a parent repeatedly failing to follow court orders. You may want to hire a lawyer to help you with your case. If you cannot afford a lawyer to handle your whole court case, you may hire one to help you with parts of the case, like checking over court forms or attending a court hearing. If you have very low income, you may qualify for free legal aid. For more information about legal services in Contra Costa including the court’s Family Law Facilitator program, please go to: http://www.cc-courts.org/general/legal-referral.aspx
  • Parents sometimes file the necessary court documents (e.g. Request for Order) to ask the court to modify the current parenting plan to prevent missed holidays or vacations in the future.

"What do I do if a non-professional supervisor is no longer willing to supervise visits? Or, what if the other parent refuses to agree to any of my suggested visit supervisors?"

It is very important to carefully follow all parts of your court ordered parenting plan. Court orders for non-professionally supervised visits often state that the parent requiring supervision must utilize a professional visit supervisor if the parents cannot mutually agree on a non-professional supervisor. Here is a list of local professional visit supervisors.

It is not uncommon for a non-professional visit supervisor to stop supervising visits after a period of time as it can be time-consuming and tiring for family members and friends to be in this role. Here are some things parents have done to avoid problems with non-professionally supervised visits:

  • Talk to trusted family members, friends, church community members, etc. before court hearings and/or child custody counseling appointments about possibly being available to supervise visits. Remember to let them know they will have to take a two-hour class on a Monday afternoon at the courthouse to learn how to safely supervise visits.
  • If there is not a criminal protective order or restraining order in place preventing communication between the parents, before your court hearing or child custody recommending counseling appointment, text or email the other parent the names of suggested non-professional visit supervisors. It's important to select people the other parent respects.
  • To sign up for the Non-Professional Visitation class, call Family Court Services between 8:00am and 3:00pm Monday through Friday. The class costs $10 for each visit supervisor and $25 for each parent to attend.

"How do I know if I'm picking the right therapist or service provider?"

It is very important to carefully follow all parts of your court ordered parenting plan. Read your court order for instructions on what service or class you, the other parent or the children must complete. For more information about selecting a service provider, go to Tips for Choosing a Family Court Ordered Service Provider (Therapist) & Beginning Therapy

"I've tried everything, but the parenting plan still isn’t working. What else can I do?"

If you are represented by an attorney, you might consider speaking to your attorney. You may want to hire a lawyer to help you with your case. If you cannot afford a lawyer to handle your whole court case, you may hire one to help you with parts of the case, like checking over court forms or attending a court hearing. If you have very low income, you may qualify for free legal aid. For more information about legal services in Contra Costa including the court’s Family Law Facilitator program, please go to: http://www.cc-courts.org/general/legal-referral.aspx

Still have a question about child custody recommending counseling or Family Court Services?

Both English and Spanish speaking child custody recommending counselors are available every Wednesday from 11:00am to Noon to answer any additional questions you might have about child custody recommending counseling or Family Court Services. You can call (925) 608-2065 or stop in to the Family Court Services offices at 751 Pine Street in Martinez between 11:00 and noon every Wednesday.