Abdicating your responsibilities as a parent can cost you
Arnold and Mary had two teen-aged children, Alex and Alice. Because of many circumstances, Arnold had caused the children to come to think their mother was dangerous (otherwise known as parental alienation). At Arnold and Mary’s divorce hearing, however, the judge saw this, saw that Mary was no danger, and ordered for Mary to have two nights each week with Alex and Alice, as well as one half of summer vacation. This in great part to cure the alienation that had been going on for two years.
This was a great ruling for Mary (my client), except that now the children didn’t want to stay nights with their mother, and being snot-nosed teenagers, they refused. Arnold, after saying he was at his wits end trying to encourage the child abide by the court orders, really didn’t try to otherwise encourage the kids to obey the judge and go visit with their mother. The problem here, though, as a parent, you can’t just tell a judge you can’t make your kids follow the court’s orders.
Colorado law is clear.
“Although it might be difficult to compel a child, particularly a teenager, to comply with a court-ordered parenting plan, this does not excuse a parent from making reasonable good faith efforts to secure the child's compliance. Where a parent fails to make reasonable efforts to require a recalcitrant child to attend visitation as provided for in a parenting plan, the parent has not made a good faith effort to comply with the parenting plan, and a contempt order may be appropriate. A parent is not a ‘powerless bystander’ in the decisions and actions of a child, and has ‘an obligation to attempt to overcome the child's resistance’ to visitation. In other words, a parent is expected to do more than refrain from discouraging visitation; a parent is expected to take affirmative action to encourage visitation.” Dean v Cook, 413 P.3d, 246 (Co. App. 2017)
Based on this, Mary and I filed a Motion to Enforce Parenting Time to force Arnold to force the kids to visit their mother. Our investigation brought out that Arnold had been telling the kids it was up them whether they visited their mother, had been hindering communication between Mary and the kids, and had been scheduling events for the kids over Mary’s parenting time. Given this, the judge found Arnold to be in contempt of the judge’s orders, ordered the entire family into counseling, made Arnold post a $5000 bond to the court to make sure he made the kids comply with the court’s orders, and required Arnold to pay $10,000 in Mary’s attorney fees for the whole episode.
Arnold is now wishing he had done more to make his kids simply visit their mother. Arnold is now complying with the court’s orders. Mary and the kids’ relationship continues to improve. And I’m no longer asking for Arnold to serve jail time for refusing to follow the court’s orders.