Parental Timesharing Disputes and Defending Against a Contempt Allegation in Florida

The ideal situation for minor children with divorced parents is, of course, for the parents to avoid conflict and collaborate as much as possible. Sadly, this doesn’t always happen. Parents may use the legal system, not as a last-resort vehicle for protecting the best interests of the children, but as a means for venting every frustration they feel toward their ex. If your ex hauls you into court alleging contempt, it is essential that you take the contempt case seriously, regardless of your opinion of the merits of his/her case. Being found in contempt can have serious negative implications for your life, including your relationship with your children, so defend against this kind of case vigorously with the help of an experienced South Florida timesharing and visitation lawyer.

It is always important to make certain that you follow the terms of the court’s order on timesharing and visitation very carefully and precisely. However, sometimes, your ex-spouse may try to allege contempt, not because you violated a black-and-white provision of the order, but merely because he/she was angry that you did not do things “her way” or “his way.” Just because you did something that was contrary to your ex-spouse’s preferences, that’s not contempt unless it is also contrary to what the judge ordered.

Presenting a successful defense against a contempt allegation, then, sometimes is simply a matter of establishing that the wrongful action you allegedly took was something that was not discussed in the trial court’s order. Take, for example, this timesharing and visitation scenario from the other side of the state.

The mother lived in Tallahassee and had majority timesharing. The father lived in Colorado and had a period of visitation in the summer. For one visit, the father bought airfare tickets for the kids to fly from Atlanta to Colorado, presumably causing the mother to have to transport the children from Tallahassee to the airport in Atlanta.

The mother took the case back to court and the judge required that all future air travel use the Tallahassee airport and that travel plans should be something that the parents work out together.

One subsequent summer, the father decided to avoid air travel completely. Instead, he drove from Colorado to the mother’s home in Tallahassee to pick up the kids for summer visitation. He arrived “on a date that, while initially agreed to by the parties, was later rejected by” the mother.

So, did the father violate the order, and was he in contempt of court?

The appeals court said no. The father’s conduct did not amount to contempt, because the court order he allegedly violated specifically set out rules for air travel arrangements. The order didn’t say anything about the father making ground travel arrangements to access his summer timesharing.

The trial court’s order did not expressly bar the father from driving to Tallahassee from Colorado to pick up the kids for summer visitation. As a result, the father could not possibly be in contempt of court for doing so.

Whatever you think of the strength or weakness of your ex’s case, you still need to treat a contempt case with the utmost seriousness, because losing that case can harm you in many very important ways. Protect yourself by reaching out to the skilled family law attorneys at Sandy T. Fox, P.A. Our experienced team knows how to take on your case and give you the best chance for success. Contact our attorneys online or by calling (800) 596-0579 to schedule your confidential consultation today.