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Legislature adds fines and penalties to parenting time law

The Minnesota House of Representatives is working on a bill that would alter some of the rules regarding parenting time. So far, House Bill 518 has been read for the second time and will soon go up for a full House vote. It will then head to the Senate for debate and approval.

When it comes to child custody and visitation decisions for a divorced or separated couple, the law requires that everyone act, first, in the best interests of the child. Courts expect that of parents, and parents expect it of one another. Unfortunately, it is easy to get bogged down in the details. It may happen, too, that one parent refuses to comply with the agreement.

HB 518 alters the wording of the current statute to make it clear that a parent is entitled to 25 percent of parenting time. The bill also stipulates that a court can award a parent compensatory time in situations when a significant amount of parenting time is "unavailable." For example: A parent's visitation schedule may be interrupted, for example, by a custodial parent's plans to take a month-long road trip over the summer. In this case, the court could order that the noncustodial parent get an additional week later in the year.

Please note that the decision to award compensatory time under those circumstances is optional. The court, at its discretion, may grant more time (unless it would not be in the best interests of the child).

In contrast, HB 518 would require the court to order compensatory time if the custodial parent denies the agreed-to visitation time repeatedly and intentionally. The parenting time may be either ordered by the court or agreed to through a parenting time expeditor. Again, the best interests of the child would justify (legally) the denial. The court may order that the parent violating either the initial order or the order for compensatory time pay a fine.

If this bill becomes law, there will be more serious consequences of missing parenting time or messing with parenting plans. Remember that modifications are possible. Contact your attorney first if you have questions.

Source: Minnesota House of Representatives, House Bill 518 1st Engrossment

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