Visitation & the Unreliable Co-Parent


A significant step in the divorce process is establishing a thorough parenting plan, or “custody and visitation agreement.” One approved, this document becomes a court order that clearly states each parent’s individual obligations and parental responsibilities. It also enacts a visitation schedule that helps both parents maintain healthy relationships with their child.

Unfortunately, while the parenting plan may be a court order, it doesn’t necessarily mean that your ex is going to follow it to the letter. As a responsible co-parent, you probably make sincere efforts to encourage your ex’s visitation rights. Per the visitation schedule, you make sure that your child is packed up and ready to go at the correct time…but then your ex doesn’t show up. Your first reaction is probably anger on behalf of your child, and then just sadness because this isn’t the first time this situation has happened (and likely not the last).

But what can you do?

Handling the Hit or Miss Parent

Some noncustodial parents only exercise their visitation rights when it’s convenient for them. If your ex is frequently late or constantly rescheduling, you may need to consider creating a revised visitation plan. Granted, it’s incredibly difficult for any parent to strictly follow a parenting plan. Sometimes people need to deal with unexpected emergencies or work issues. Even so, your own plans shouldn’t be ruined just because your ex keeps disregarding the visitation schedule. It’s time for a change.

You can meet with your ex and make it clear that you aren’t going to be so flexible about visitation in the future. If it’s the current parenting plan that isn’t working, you may need to discuss modifying the original court order. The court rarely argues against an uncontested modification unless it doesn’t benefit the child’s best interests.

If your ex isn’t interested in restructuring the visitation schedule, you can give them a different ultimatum. For example, your ex can have a 30-minute window to pick up your child. If your ex doesn’t arrive within this time period, they need to forfeit that visitation session. If your former spouse takes you to court over this ultimatum, you can present evidence of their failure to follow the original court order and explain why you’re encouraging this new policy.

Dealing with the No-Show Parent

You may find yourself at a loss if your ex doesn’t adhere to the visitation schedule at all. Do you keep getting your child ready each weekend while steeling yourself for disappointment? How long do you have to keep swallowing your angry thoughts just to keep them out of your child’s ears? At what point do you just give up on you ex?

Most importantly: how do you rationalize this parenting failure to your confused child?

The first step is to discuss this matter with your ex. Your former spouse may clog your ears with explanations and hollow promises, but take these words with a grain of salt. As they say, actions speak louder than words. Your first priority is your child. If your child is being regularly disappointed by a noncompliant parent, there is no point in getting them ready for a visitation that isn’t going to happen. After all, there’s only so much heartbreak a child can take.

It’s important to civilly explain your concerns to your ex before taking any legal steps. In fact, you can even tell your ex that they need to give you at least a days’ warning if they truly plan on exercising their visitation rights. This protects your child from getting ready and waiting for further disappointment. If you take this step, your ex may get angry and threaten to take you to court. However, the courts always make their decisions based on the best interests of the child. If you present a comprehensive list of missed visitation times, the court isn’t going to be sympathetic to your ex. If your ex is negligent on other child custody issues, you may be able to request a parenting plan modification.

Have Visitation Concerns? Schedule a Consultation Today

Dealing with an inconsistent co-parent can be incredibly frustrating. You can’t control their actions or force them to see their child. Fortunately, there are legal options you can explore. If you have any questions or concerns regarding your visitation schedule, contact the Florida visitation attorneys at The Virga Law Firm, P.A. We can assess your situation and thoroughly explain your legal options. If necessary, we can represent your case in court.

We provide 24/7 legal services. Contact The Virga Law Firm, P.A. at (800) 822-5170 to schedule a consultation.

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