Recently, I came across the following post on Facebook[i] and felt that this needed to be addressed:
“A parent contacted us with the following scenario recently. They submitted doctor bills for payment to the other parent every year for six years. The other parent never paid their half, not once. The cost to recover the bills through court would have been more than the bills.
When the bills hit $13,000 the costs became too much to bear alone. So they took the other parent to court. The court did nothing to the parent who refused to pay the medical bills all those years. But told the parent who was owed the $13,000 that they had not submitted the bills in a timely manner. The court order said 90 days and they went over that. Curt said only bills submitted within 90 days of each submission each year would be granted.
No wonder parents violate court orders and take their chances in court. Who knows who the court will side with, who knows what sections of what court orders will be upheld, against which parent or anyone at any time. Side note other parent feels empowered and has already violated other sections of court order as a result. This parent feels victimized by parent, but more victimized by system and contacted our Divorce Coach service for help going forward.”
Here’s the problems with the above post: 1) Both parents need to follow the orders. “The court order said 90 days and they went over that.” The court did not decline to enforce their orders, they said that “bills submitted within 90 days of each submission each year would be granted.” When parents complain about not getting the court to punish the other parent when they didn’t follow the orders either, it is counterproductive.
It doesn’t sound like there was any confusion here on this parent’s part, they just simply didn’t follow the orders themselves. I don’t really understand why they expect the other parent to follow orders when they didn’t.
2) What chances did the parent take? There was no mystery here. It sounds like the order was clear and the parent attempting to enforce did not follow it. On one hand, the parent that paid all the bills but didn’t follow the order wants to punish the other parent for not paying a portion of the bill. But that parent, according to the order and the law is now not liable or required to pay those bills. The court merely informed the parent that there wasn’t anything to enforce because they didn’t follow the orders themselves. But did inform the parent that when they follow the order by notifying the other parent within the proper timeframe that they will enforce the order.
3) If the parent is violating other sections of the order and they know then taking them to court for those violations wouldn’t be a guessing game or an issue with who the court was going to side with since this isn’t a siding issue, it was an issue of whether or not what they are asking the court to enforce is a request in compliance with the orders. According to this post, the court will side with enforcing their order.
If the parent that took this to court feels victimized, I’m sorry, but that sounds out of place. Perhaps they feel victimized for other reasons, but it shouldn’t be from this. Really is it the court’s fault that they didn’t follow the order themselves and serve the other parent during the proper timeframe?
It is unfortunate that this parent is now stuck with the total bills. One might even say that the other parent should want to pay for half of the expenses for their child and that it is a basic responsibility. If the world operated this way nobody would need orders.
Bottom line: It is your responsibility to know your orders and to follow them. And if you plan on enforcing orders make sure that you have complied with the orders properly so that they can be enforced. If your orders are not clear enough or specific enough to be enforced, ask the court for a clarification.
Having a divorce coach to help identify the details could help avoid this type of mishap.
[i] PAS Intervention-Florida Chapter https://www.facebook.com/FLPASI/posts/472492399531569?notif_t=like