You probably had excellent reasons for ending your marriage or your relationship with your child's other parent. Those reasons may have included behavior on your ex's part that made it seem like spending time with them would not be good for your kids. (We know of one case in which a parent took a three-year-old for a smoke-filled limousine ride with some denizens of the local strip club).
While not every parent's poor parenting choices are as brazen as the example above, we know you may cringe when you have to let your child walk out the door with their other parent. It may not be an issue of safety, exactly, but of knowing the other parent is going to badmouth you, or feed your child nothing but junk food and not enforce baths or bedtimes, or ignore your child in favor of the screen of a computer or phone. Under these circumstances, wouldn't it be better to ignore the parenting time order and let your child stay in their comfortable, stable, healthy environment with you? It might seem so, and your child might even ask you to let them skip seeing their other parent. But should you?
As you probably know, Minnesota recently did a thorough overhaul of the “best interests” factors that courts use to determine child custody and parenting time. In general, the focus of the revised custody statute is on the needs of the children, not the wants of the parents. At first blush, it might seem that keeping a child from parenting time with an irresponsible, mean, or borderline neglectful parent would be a good idea.
However, that line of thinking could backfire if custody and parenting time issues ever come before the court again in your case, as they almost surely will. One of the factors Minnesota courts consider in awarding custody and parenting time is:
...except in cases in which domestic abuse as described in clause (4) has occurred, the disposition of each parent to support the child's relationship with the other parent and to encourage and permit frequent and continuing contact between the child and the other parent...
In other words, how likely are you to support your child's relationship with their other parent? If you routinely deny parenting time to the other parent, it is very likely that a court will decide that you are not disposed toward fostering your child's relationship with them. Since Minnesota believes it's in a child's best interests to have a strong relationship with both parents (in most circumstances) this will count against you in a custody matter.
What if it's the other parent who fails to show up for parenting time? That's another matter, but document calls, e-mails and texts showing that either they bailed out on their promised time, or that you tried to arrange time for your child with their other parent but were unsuccessful. That way you can prove you were not the one denying parenting time.
And what if you truly do believe it's best for your child not to have the scheduled parenting time with their other parent? Document the specific occurrences that support your belief and share them with your attorney. He or she can tell you if you have a strong case for pursuing a modification of parenting time. Unless the other parent's behavior is new and serious, however, understand that you're facing an uphill climb.
Please contact us at Mundahl Law with any questions you have about keeping your children safe and well-cared for while fostering a relationship between them and their other parent. We look forward to working with you.