Last Updated: April 20, 2022
Is there anything more heartbreaking to a parent than having a child that does not want to see or be with them? This is actually a very common occurrence in divorces and breakups, as children will sometimes hold one parent directly responsible for the divorce or split. It is important to be very careful in what you say and how you act as the child will pick up on negativity. A visitation schedule that works for you, your ex, and your child will help get things on the right track and ensure the parenting time each parent has works long-term.
Find Out If There Is A Problem With The Visitation Schedule For Your Child
Sometimes a child does not want to spend time with one of the parents for a variety of reasons. The child may believe that one parent is at fault for the split. Another reason could be because one parent is always “Mr. Nice Guy” and the child views the other parent as the disciplinarian. It is important to work together, as parents, to set uniform discipline standards and rules for the children to live by even though the parents are now living in different homes. Setting up a visitation schedule that makes your kids happy is not an easy thing to do, but there are ways to ensure your kids are excited to see you during your parenting time.
What Steps Can Be Taken?
When faced with a child that does not want to visit you during your scheduled time, follow these steps:
- Ask “Why Does My Child Not Want to See Me?” You may be making something out of nothing. At a young age, something such as a friend’s birthday party will probably take priority over spending time with mom or dad. It is very important to establish the reason for the refusal before overreacting to it. Keep in mind that overreacting by a parent can lead a child to feel as though they have done something bad – and kids will always avoid whatever situation makes them feel bad. Don’t add stress to the situation.
- How Do You Feel? Your feelings are just as important as your child’s when this happens, so recognize the feelings you are having when the news is delivered. Are you actually happy the child does not want to come and see you? This may be something he or she has noticed and feels unwanted in your home. Are you angry simply because your ex is seemingly your child’s favorite? Kids react differently even while the parents’ relationship is strong, so a parent shouldn’t be surprised when negativity comes out. The main thing is to stick to being positive (fake it until you make it) so that your children come away with that positive feeling as well.
- Talk to Your Child. Once you have your facts straight, sit down with your child for a quick chat. If it something as simple as a birthday party, maybe you can take him or her instead of your ex. This would be a great opportunity for you to bond further with your child. But, be ready for more serious reasons, such as the child simply has not made any friends in your neighborhood and does not like to go there. Keep in mind that whatever your child says, you should not argue with him or her – explain that you want to listen to their concerns, feelings, and then you will make a plan to make things better. Then, sit down and figure it out! Never blame your ex and never tell your child that something is his or her fault.
- Don’t Skirt the Issue. If you are the parent with whom the child wants to stay and have been told this by the child, you should encourage the child to discuss the matter with your ex. This is especially true for older children. If the child feels uncomfortable addressing the issue with your ex, role playing the conversation may help ease his or her nerves. For your child’s well-being, it would be best for you to initiate the conversation with your ex so that the heat can be taken off the child. Neither parent should make the child feel bad for how they feel.
- Have a Talk with Your Ex. If you know the problem, it may be best to address the problem with your ex before or after your child does. However, you need to be careful how you present the situation so it does not come off as though you are trying to take over the situation. It should come off as being concerned about the relationship you both have with your children and that you want to work together so both parents remain active in the child’s life. Remember – one of the biggest factors a court uses when determining custody (in a contested custody fight) is whether each parent will continue to foster a healthy and close relationship between he child and the other parent.
Denying Visitation is a Big No-No
Denying visitation, (or not forcing your child to follow the visitation schedule as ordered by the court), can make you into the bad guy and get you into trouble with the judge. When a parent denies the other parents parenting time and does not enforce a visitation schedule. that parent can be held in contempt of court, and in some states, may have even committed a crime!
Avoid Contempt of Court
When parenting time that has been ordered by a judge is denied by a parent, unless there are serious reasons to do so, a Petition for Rule to Show Cause can be filed asking that a parent be held in contempt of court. This means that someone has intentionally refused to follow a court order. Judges in family courts handle all types of custody and parenting time issues differently, but one thing is common amongst them all – they want their court orders followed. Always. Denying parenting time must be because of serious safety concerns (like drug use, violence, or something else that is similarly serious in nature). A divorce lawyer should also be contacted, and a motion to modify parenting time should be filed with the court before a Petition for Contempt can be filed.
What If a Child Refuses to Go for Visitation?
This is where it gets tough. Even when a child refuses to go, you must do all you can to follow the court order. Remember, not following a court order could mean you face being held in contempt of court! You, the parent, are the boss, not the child.
We’ve dealt with these issues before, and it is quite common. But as a very wise judge told clients in the past: “The child is not captain of this ship – you parents are. If you can’t control your child and your child doesn’t respect you enough to do what you say, maybe the other parent should be in charge.” A conversation needs to be had with he child about what they are required to do – and this should involve both parents to make it easier on the child because of having a unified front. Co-parenting isn’t easy, but it is necessary.
Work together – any way possible – with your ex. Neither of you wants to go to court and spend thousands of dollars on attorneys’ fees and court costs unless it is absolutely necessary. Making sure your kids understand that when a judge decides on a parenting time schedule, both parents will follow it and the children must do so as well. Divorce attorneys will normally do their best to find a parenting plan that works for all parties and the kids, and parents that can cooperate for the best interests of their children have the best chance at obtaining a positive outcome.