What if the other party doesn't follow the parenting agreement or order?


Parenting agreements and parenting orders can set out how parenting time is shared or the details of a non-guardian's contact with a child. Sometimes people don't follow their parenting agreements or orders. For example:

  • A parent, or the non-guardian with contact, might not show up or be available to care for the child when he or she was supposed to. This is called failure to exercise parenting time or contact.
  • A parent might prevent the other parent or the non-guardian with contact from spending the designated time with the child. This is called denial of parenting time or contact.

There are steps you can take in either situation. Ultimately, the court can enforce the agreement or order and impose consequences on the person who isn't following the agreement or order. However, getting the court to enforce an agreement or order means you have to make a court application, and the process can be expensive and time-consuming. Consider this option only if:

  • the other person repeatedly fails to follow an order or agreement, OR
  • the other person's failure to follow an order or agreement caused you and your child extreme inconvenience and cost, AND
  • you can't come to a new agreement.

Failure to exercise parenting time or contact

If a person with parenting time or contact repeatedly fails to spend time with your child as agreed to or ordered, a judge can order one or more of the following:

  • You and the other person must go to mediation or another form of family dispute resolution.
  • You, the other person, and/or your child must attend counselling or other programs.
  • Someone must supervise the transfer of the child from one person to the other.
  • The other person must reimburse you if the failure to exercise parenting time or contact cost you money. (These expenses must be reasonable and necessary, for example, lost wages, child care, or travel expenses.)
  • If the judge thinks the other person won't follow any of the orders the court makes, the other person must put up security or report to the court.

If the judge orders mediation, counselling, or other services that cost money, the court can decide how you and the other person will pay for the service (that is, whether or not and how you should split the cost).

Denial of parenting time or contact

When a denial isn't considered "wrongful"

There are a few situations where it's acceptable to deny the other person parenting time or contact. For example:

  • You believe the child might be subject to family violence.
  • You believe the other person is impaired by drugs or alcohol.
  • The child is sick and you have a doctor's note saying that parenting time or contact isn't appropriate.
  • In the previous year, the other person repeatedly failed to spend his or her parenting time or contact time with the child, or didn't give you reasonable notice that he or she wouldn't be able to spend time with the child.
  • The other person told you he or she wouldn't be able to spend the time with the child but then changed his or her mind without giving you reasonable notice.

What the court can order

If you prevented the other person from having parenting time or contact, and the court agrees that you had a valid reason for doing so (the denial wasn't wrongful), the court can still order that the other person make up the time he or she would've spent with the child. If a judge makes such an order, he or she must base it on the best interests of the child, including his or her safety and security.

If you were wrongfully denied parenting time or contact, the judge can order one or more of the following:

  • You and the person who denied the parenting time or contact must go to mediation or another form of family dispute resolution.
  • You, the person who denied the parenting time or contact, and/or your child must attend counselling or other programs.
  • Time with the child will be scheduled to make up for the time that you were denied.
  • The other person must reimburse you if the denial cost you money. (These expenses must be reasonable and necessary, for example, lost wages, child care, or travel expenses.)
  • Someone must supervise the transfer of the child from one person to the other.
  • If the judge thinks the person who denied the parenting time or contact won't follow any of the orders the court makes, the parent must put up security (such as money or property) or report to the court.
  • The parent who denied the parenting time or contact must pay up to $5,000 for the benefit of the other person or the child.
  • The parent who denied the parenting time or contact must pay a court fine of up to $5,000.

If the judge orders mediation, counselling, or other services that cost money, the judge can also decide how you and the other person will pay for the service (that is, whether or not and how you should split the cost).

What if I'm worried the other parent is going to take my child away?

If you can provide enough information to the court that the other parent (or someone else) plans to take your child out of BC, and is unlikely to return the child to BC, the court can order him or her to:

  • pay security,
  • give up his or her passport and the passports of the children,
  • transfer specified property to a trustee named by the court, or
  • pay any child support to a trustee.

The court can also order this person not to take the child out of a specific geographical area.

This doesn't apply if the other parent is planning to move. In that situation, the parent planning to move must give any other guardian or person with contact with the child 60 days notice of the move. The non-moving parent can then apply to the court to object to the move. See our fact sheet Can you move — With or without your child?

How to apply to court

For more information, see What happens if an agreement isn't followed?For step-by-step instructions on how to enforce (or respond to an application to enforce) an agreement or order about parenting time or contact, see our self-help guide How to enforce a parenting agreement or order.

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