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Custodial mother wants to know how strict she should be with court-ordered phone call times or exchange times

Your Question:
First, I really appreciate your unbiased advise to both mothers and fathers.

Background: I am the biological mother, never married to the biological father. After some time being on and off again, I finally left the father for good when our daughter was 4. (We are currently in two different states.) I was the primary caregiver; BF never even changed a diaper, but he's Daughter's favorite playmate. The BF was sporadically interested in our D; contacting her once in four months, and then contacted me issuing insults and demanding the entire summer for parent time. Tired of threats, I sought an attorney, we went to mediation and arrived at a parenting agreement. I have full physical custody, and joint legal with ultimate decision-making residing in my hands.

Issue: I want to be reasonable, but after 10 years of experiencing extensive verbal and emotional abuse, I find it hard to [reasonably] draw lines with the NCP. He continually pushes the boundary of our agreement; calling 3 hours before phone time, demanding a return call before he's unavailable in 1 hour. His commitment has faded to calling once for every three available phone visitations, and no other contact with Daughter. Now, he's made arrangements that push the drop-off time by an hour. I know this doesn't seem like a big deal, but I agreed to a certain set of guidelines, which he treats as if they don't exist. As a side note, we have NO communication; we merely email travel arrangements.

Question: Do I just ignore the one hour here, one hour there? Our agreement is barely 3 months old! I feel, knowing him, that if I allow it, this problem will grow astronomically. Do you have any advice on handling this situation?


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My Answer:

Thanks for writing.

From a legal standpoint, if he isn't following court orders, he's in contempt of court orders.

That said, you know that YOU picked an inconsiderate and perhaps slightly jerky guy to be your child's father.

Sure, I can understand how annoying it is that he doesn't follow the rules. I would wager that you're writing from that annoyed part of you, not from part of you that is concerned about your child.

I suggest you ACCEPT that he'll do these little things forever, and you probably can't fix it. If he calls a bit earlier, and if it doesn't hurt anything, so what?

At the same time, live your life by the parenting agreement, and advise him whenever you can't accommodate his attempt to change things:

    "Dear Ex, while I try my best to be accommodating to your frequent spontaneous decisions to push call/exchange times forward or backward by hours, unfortunately your proposed travel itinerary of April 9 conflicts with plans I've already made for our child. Therefore, in this instance, I'd like us to follow the court orders for April 9, and I'm not able to negotiate on that. Thanks for your cooperation."

Then it's his decision to comply with orders or not. If he doesn't, you have a choice to file a contempt action against him.

So... I'd encourage you to roll with the flow until the time that it actually has a negative impact (aside from how annoying it is), and be prepared to follow-through if he still ignores court orders after you advise him you can't agree to change them.

If you threaten and don't follow-through, you are going to add fuel to the fire (i.e., he'll know he can get away with whatever he wants, no matter what you threaten). So don't make that decision lightly.


This website gives common sense advice that is not intended to act as legal guidance nor psychological guidance. The author is neither an attorney nor licensed psychologist. For specific legal guidance or specific psychological guidance, consult with a licensed professional.

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