What happens if a non-custodial parent habitually brings a son back days late from a visitation, resulting in unexcused absences from school (kindergarten)? Am I responsible for the truancy? The school district/truancy officer can’t offer any advice.
What happens (present tense)? Or do you really mean to ask: how do I ensure that the noncustodial parent gets his/her comeuppance for habitually bringing our son back days late from visitation, resulting in unexcused absences from school?
And then are you also curious as to whether you bear any legal responsible for the truancy?
If so, then here are my opinions (this is based upon Utah law, as I practice law in Utah):
- For reasons I understand but cannot condone, as a general principle courts are ludicrously lenient with parents who disobey court orders. If you want the noncustodial parent to be held accountable and want to do that through the courts, good luck, and here’s how you do it: file a motion for an order from the court commanding the noncustodial parent to come to court and show cause as to why the noncustodial parent should not be held in contempt of court for noncompliance and then fined, jailed, and otherwise sanctioned for the noncompliance. Don’t expect the court to hold the noncustodial parent accountable the first time you persuade the court that the noncustodial parent is in contempt. Courts often adopt a “2 or 3 strikes and your out” policy before they are actually punished with fines, jail, etc.
- Responsibility for truancy. A parent of a school-age child can be convicted of a class B misdemeanor for intentionally or recklessly: (i) failing to meet with the designated school authorities to discuss the child’s school attendance problems; or (ii) failing to prevent the child from being absent without a valid excuse five or more times during the remainder of the school year. The Utah Code does not define what a “valid excuse” is, but I would bet (and hope) that as long as you make the reasonable effort to remind the noncustodial parent of his/her obligation to bring the child back to you in time for you to take the child to school, then the noncustodial parent failing to bring the child back in time for you to take the child to school would constitute a valid excuse.
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