Preserving Parenting Rights

In Massachusetts, non-custodial parents who choose not to exercise court ordered parenting time cannot be held in contempt for not exercising their parenting rights under a court order or agreement incorporated into a judgment. Custodial parents in Massachusetts who choose to prevent the non-custodial parents’ exercise of court ordered parenting rights can and will be held in contempt for clear disobedience of clear and unequivocal court orders, O’Connell v. Greenwood,59 Mass App. Ct. 147.

Oftentimes parents will separate or divorce with a decent co-parenting work relationship and will leave the language of their parenting agreement/ separation agreement vague on the issue of non-custodial parenting times with language like, “parenting time upon the reasonable agreement of the parties not be unreasonably withheld,” based on the assumption that a good working relationship between them in the present will survive new relationships for one or both of them in the future.

How many divorced couples have you known who go years without custody problems until one of them finds a boyfriend or a girlfriend?

When the refusal of the custodial parent to make the children available for parenting times with the non-custodial parent cause violations of a child custody order or a visitation agreement to occur, the first thing a family law practioner will want to review is the court order creating the parenting plan. If there is no order, a trip back to court will be necessary to obtain one.

In the case of O’Connell v. Greenwood,59 Mass App. Ct. 147, the non-custodial parent came to court on two separate complaints for contempt on avarietyof grievances he had with the custodial parent which included: