An Order is an Order, Not an Option

By Sahar P. Safi, Esq.

You did it.  You separated from your partner and your child’s other parent, went through the entire legal case, all the pleadings and motions, the mediation and alternative dispute resolution, the Court appearances and hearings, possibly even had a child expert involved, and now finally have custody orders in place that are in your child’s best interests.  You think it is over, but what do you do when the other parent is not following the orders that were so painstakingly crafted?  Maybe they keep the child during your overnights, or flat out refuse the exchanges.  Maybe they are making decisions without your input when you are supposed to decide together, or they are not permitting the child to have communication with you as outlined in the order.

Colorado law provides effective means by which you can seek enforcement and assistance from the Court to bring the other parent into compliance with the parenting time orders.  This can be done by either filing a Contempt Motion under the Colorado Rules of Civil Procedure Rule 107, or a Motion to Enforce under Colorado Revised Statutes §14-10-129.5.  While a Contempt Motion has its benefits, including requesting that the Court order the other party to pay your fees and costs and order sanctions against the party violating the parenting time orders, a Motion to Enforce is often the more ideal option.

A Motion to Enforce has priority on the Court’s docket, and Court’s are generally more receptive to this procedural route, rather than filing for contempt, as a Motion to Enforce is perceived to be less hostile and adversarial.  Further, the Court can still order the other party to pay your fees and costs and impose sanctions upon them, but with a Motion to Enforce, the Court has many other forms of relief available to it as permitted under the statute.

A Contempt Motion is limited in its sanctions to only imposition of a fine and/or jail time to try and bring the other parent into compliance.  A Motion to Enforce on the other hand, offers more creative methods to resolve the dispute.  Among others, not only can the Court impose additional terms and conditions to ensure compliance with the parenting time orders, but the Court can also require either or both parents to attend parental education programs or family counseling with the noncomplying parent footing the bill, require the noncomplying parent to post bond or security to ensure against future violations, provide the aggrieved parent with makeup parenting time for all that they have missed, order anything else that promotes the best interest of the child, and the Court can even find the noncomplying parent in contempt for their violations of the parenting time orders, thereby incorporating the same sanctions as permitted in a Contempt Motion within a Motion to Enforce.  The statute is quite potent and gives the Court ample tools to deploy in securing enforcement of the parenting time orders so that you are not without recourse if the other parent unilaterally decides not to observe the parenting time orders.

You have made it past massive hurdles to get parenting time orders in the best interest of your child, and, while not something you anticipated, you may have to go back to Court to enforce those orders.  Knowing that there are safeguards and laws in place to help carry out and implement those orders that were so hard-fought can provide you with the reassurance needed to keep the focus where it should always be, on the needs and well-being of your child.