Your custody order is enforceable in the Washington family courts. If you or your ex refuse to abide by the existing order, either of you could go to court to ask for enforcement assistance.
A judge could order make-up parenting time or even impose penalties against the parent who fails to abide by the terms of the custody order. Sadly, not even the threat of enforcement efforts is enough to deter some people from misconduct related to their children.
Your ex might refuse to let you take the children during your parenting time or might violate the terms of your custody order, possibly by failing to enforce household rules or give you a say in major decisions. Parents having a hard time in their co-parenting relationship need to understand that when their ex is not cooperative or supportive, a custody modification might be a better solution than an enforcement action.
What is a custody modification?
Your custody order won’t do much to protect your relationship with your children if your ex won’t follow the schedule or other rules included in the plan. In scenarios where one parent is very uncooperative or has intentionally and purposefully interfered in the rights of the other, a modification may be necessary.
In fact, judges in Washington can grant custody modifications for any significant change in your family circumstances. You will generally need evidence of a change that necessitates an update to your parenting plan and also a compelling argument that those changes will be in the best interests of your children.
If there is currently a very uneven division of parenting time, spending more time with you could be in the best interests of the child. If the other parent neglects them or leaves them alone while they go out to the bar, that could also be a reason to ask the court for more time with your children.
You can cooperate, or you can litigate
When updating your custody order, you have the option of either cooperating with your ex or litigating. When you both agree about specific changes, you can request a modification in an uncontested filing. You can also pursue a contested modification, which will involve the two of you arguing for different changes or one of you claiming that no change is necessary.
Understanding that you can update your existing custody order is the first step toward improving your legal rights related to your children.