March 9, 2009

Top 10 Ways To Get Along And Avoid An Enforcement Action

istock_000002834917xsmallAs a Portland, Oregon based family law firm we field a lot of questions about problems with parenting plans.  We hear questions about  parents not returning the children on time, about sharing transportation after a parent moves a short distance, and about whether the kids have to see the other parent if they don’t want to. So why not just file an enforcement action in court?  We previously blogged about the enforcement remedies of contempt, enforcement of parenting time, and orders of assistance. While there are good reasons to file an enforcement action, and potential defenses, the best way to “win” is to avoid enforcement litigation altogether. As family law lawyers, we offer the following 10 tips on getting along and avoiding the need for enforcement litigation.

  1. Know your parenting plan. I am always surprised by how many parents don’t know what the plan says or have a copy handy.  If you don’t have a copy of yours, get one and save it.
  2. Follow the parenting plan.  Parenting plans are orders of the court. If you have a problem with the plan, seek to modify it rather than disregard it.
  3. Keep clear channels of communication open. People hire lawyers because they can’t work out a problem on their own with the other parent. Don’t hire a lawyer because you haven’t tried to discuss the dispute with the other parent.
  4. Consider mediation. If a dispute arises around the plan and you can’t work it out directly with the other parent, consider using county or private mediation.
  5. Put the children first.  I believe that if all parents repeated the mantra “put the children first” it would substantially reduce the number of enforcement motions we file.  Pay attention to their emotional needs. Don’t make them be a messenger between households.
  6. Be reasonable and flexible.  Is the other parent being 10 minutes late at an exchange really worth getting back into court? Traffic and life happens.
  7. Consider using communication software.  We previously blogged (see post here) about the parenting time software called OurFamilyWizard. If you have a hard time communicating about the parenting plan, this program may help.
  8. Manage your own anger. If you can’t let go of anger from the divorce, you are going to have trouble putting the kids first. Consider getting counseling.  When you are relaxed, the kids can relax.  Don’t be so angry that the kids have to parent you!
  9. Allow the kids to love both parents.You are going to have separate households. Kids need  a supportive environment to deal with the reality of two households.  Speak positively of your ex around the kids.  Be supportive of their relationship with the other parent. Create an environment free from inter-parental hostility.
  10. Get input from the kids about the schedule and share it with the other parent.  Older children should be able to  to give input about the parenting schedule.  This is their life you are organizing.  Listening, sharing the information, and cooperatively making adjustments can avoid unnecessary litigation over a broken parenting plan.