For most married couples with children, the potential to lose time with those kids is often one of the biggest deterrents to divorce. Almost everyone has heard a horror story about a good parent who doesn't get to spend time with their children because of a contentious divorce. In most cases, those stories are either very old or exaggerated.
Modern family courts really do try their hardest to fairly split custody between both parents. Sometimes, one parent can still receive primary custody. However, even in that scenario, the non-custodial parent should likely get liberal and reasonable amounts of parenting time. If your ex won't let you spend time with your children, you may need to take legal action to assert your rights.
Custody terms come in a court order
When one parent initially files for divorce, the New York courts will typically issue a temporary custody and support order. This order will last until there is time for a hearing. When you finalize your divorce in court, the judge will create a more permanent parenting plan and custody order.
That plan will be more comprehensive and provide guidance for everything from birthdays and holidays to what time at night to bring the children home. Both the temporary and final custody orders are actual court orders, which means if someone doesn't comply with them, they risk facing allegations of contempt of court.
Unfortunately, people don't always abide by the rules set forth in the custody order. If you find that your ex is refusing you visitation time, denying access to your kids or shortening your parenting time, you may have to take steps to enforce your parental rights.
You have the right to ask the courts to enforce your visitation order
The first few times that your ex cuts your visitation short or refuses to let you spend time with the kids, you should communicate with them directly in writing asking for the reason. Send a polite and appropriate email or text message asserting that this was your parenting time and asking when you can make it up. The written records of your communication can help prove your problems to the court in the future.
In some cases, simply calling your ex out on the refusal of parenting time can resolve the situation. Other times, your texts and emails will be considered as documentation when you go to court.
Generally speaking, the family courts frown on parents who intentionally alienate the kids from the other parent. The courts may revise the parenting plan to reflect that behavior. In some cases, they may even award primary custody to the parent previously alienated.
If you find yourself frustrated by lack of access to your children or by your ex's refusal to follow the parenting plan, it may be time to sit down with a family law attorney to discuss your concerns.