As Fathers’ Day approaches, many single dads find themselves in the untenable situation of being fathers, yet not being able to be with their children on that most fatherly of all holidays, Fathers’ Day.
There are a few different reasons this may be, ranging from it being spelled out in your court order or parenting agreement that the children spend Fathers’ Day with you, but you agreed with their mother that they would be with her this year on that date; to it being spelled out that your kids spend Fathers’ Day with you but their mother is thwarting that; to it being spelled out that, for whatever reason, the kids are not with you on the day on which Fathers’ Day falls; to it not being clearly spelled out in your parenting plan or court order at all.
It is this latter that is often the problem, as it is shockingly common for parenting plans and court orders to not clearly spell out with which parent the children spend these sorts of holidays.
Take a good look at your court order (and for this purpose, your parenting agreement or parenting plan, if signed off on by the court, is a court order).
Does it say very specifically that the children are to be with you on Fathers’ Day? If so, then mom is required to make them available to you on Fathers’ Day. Period. Now, sure, if she has a good reason to request that they be with her on that day, you can be a good guy and agree. But absent that, if it is very clearly spelled out that the kids are with you on Fathers’ Day, then she is legally bound to make them available to you. And, she can’t make you jump through hoops to make it happen, either, so no taking the kids out of state and then saying “If you want them with you on Fathers’ Day come pick them up.”
So, if you are finding yourself facing the situation where your time with the kids on Fathers’ Day is spelled out in a court order, the law is on your side. And let’s be clear, the law is on your side even if you are behind on child support! One is not tied to the other, so don’t let the fact that you are behind on child support keep you from asserting your legal right to have the children with you on Fathers’ Day! (But do make arrangements to get caught up on that child support as quickly as you can – and if you need to have the amount modified owing to some downturn in your financial situation, make sure that you do it through the courts, otherwise it won’t count.)
While the police in most jurisdictions will do what’s known as a “civil standby” to help enforce that court order, that is not something to which you want to subject your children, or, for that matter, you and your ex. So if you think that there is going to be an issue with your having the children on Fathers’ Day (and it’s spelled out in your court order), then the thing to do is to have your lawyer remind her lawyer (or her, if she doesn’t have a lawyer) that she has a legal obligation to make the kids available to you on Fathers’ Day.
Now, what if your court order doesn’t spell out that you have the kids on Fathers’ Day? Well then it’s time to have your order modified to give it a greater degree of specificity, so that it does clearly spell out Fathers’ Day (and also Mothers’ Day for her, Thanksgiving, religious holidays you may observe, etc.).
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The best way to do this, if at all possible, is cooperatively, not by going back to court. Your attorney can work with her attorney, or her, to come up with a modification that protects both of your parenting rights, and in most jurisdictions, so long as you both sign off on it, it can be submitted to the court for the court’s approval without either of you having to go back in to court. Of course, this is not only much better for you, and the kids, but it’s also much more financially gentle.
Hopefully you get to be with your children this Fathers’ Day, but if not, at least now you know what you need to do in order to make sure that you have them with you next year.
This article written by Anne P. Mitchell, Esq.. Mitchell is the founder of DadsRights.org, and was one of the first fathers’ rights attorneys in the United States. Her book, They’re Your Kids Too: The Single Father’s Guide to Defending Your Fatherhood in a Broken Family Law System, is currently rated in the top 100 on Amazon in the Family Law – Domestic Relations category, and in the top 10 on Kindle.