Is your former spouse not following the holiday visitation schedule?

As we move through the holiday season divorced parents often times face issues with the other spouse refusing to abide by the Court ordered holiday visitation schedule. As a frustrated parent, what are your options to deal with this situation? First, you can try having a conversation with your former spouse and explain that the Court order clearly articulates X, Y, and Z for visitation during the holidays. However, chances are this won’t be a very effective approach. If your former spouse was willing to cooperate with you and address issues in a reasonable manner, you likely wouldn’t be facing a situation where the visitation schedule isn’t being followed.

The next option involves returning to the Courts to enforce the holiday visitation requirement. As disappointing as this option may be, it is likely the only way to effectively hold your former spouse accountable for their brazen violation of the Court ordered visitation schedule. Under Iowa law (and other jurisdictions take a similar approach) your former spouse can be held in contempt if they have a (1) a duty to obey a court order, and (2) willfully failed to perform that duty. What this means is that if your former spouse willfully chooses to not follow the holiday visitation provisions outlined in your divorce decree (a court order), then they can be held in contempt of Court.

To bring an action for contempt you can file an application for an order for a rule to show cause why the party should not be held in contempt. This process is carried out pursuant to Iowa Code §§ 598.23, 598.23A; ch. 665. Once this application is made, a hearing before the judge will take place and the Court will reach a decision whether or not to hold the offending party in contempt or if some other remedy should be ordered. The judge can choose from a wide array of remedies including fines, jail time, and modification of the visitation and/or custody arrangement. There is no set course of action that a judge must take and the outcome of a show cause proceeding will depend heavily on the facts of a given situation.

An application for an order to show cause can be used not only in a situation where holiday visitation is not being followed, but in any situation where your former spouse refuses to follow the court ordered divorce decree. As always, it is highly recommended that you consult with an attorney to fully assess your options relative to any ongoing disputes so that a complete assessment of your particular situation can be carried out.

For more information regarding family law, divorce, and holiday visitation schedules, contact the Goosmann Law Firm at or call 712-226-4000.

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