Dividing the time that you have with your child after a divorce or separation is painful enough without the fear that your ex will not respect your kids’ rights to continue a relationship with you let alone your rights as a parent. For instance, some parents worry that an ex will prevent them from seeing their child.
In these situations, what options does the wronged parent have?
Enforcing your rights to parenting time and decision making (formerly called “access and custody”)
If the other parent of your child is not allowing you to see your child per your parenting or separation agreement (if you have one). You do have a few options.
The first step is typically to talk to your ex. In some cases, there is a misunderstanding that parties can clear up with direct communication. Sometimes it is more prudent to keep such communications in writing. Keep it civil and respectful. Avoid threats.
If that does not work, you can contact your lawyer to negotiate, mediate or otherwise step in to resolve any legal issues. In fact, even if it does work, it pays to have any understandings incorporated into a written document and/or into a court order.
Parents can face harsh consequences for violating a court order and wrongfully preventing a parent from seeing their child.
Are there legitimate reasons to keep a child from their parent?
There are scenarios in which a parent may have grounds to keep a child from a parent, such as situations in which a parent is jeopardizing a child’s safety or welfare. For instance, a parent may be disinclined to transfer physical possession of their child to another parent who is:
- Intoxicated or under the influence of drugs
- Violent in the presence of the child
- Unable to provide a safe environment for their child
Under these circumstances, the child could be in danger, and a parent may be justified in seeking a protective order from the court.
Parents have misconceptions about what to do in these complicated situations. For instance, a parent denying parenting time may feel justified because the other parent is not paying child support. These are separate issues, and interfering with parenting time because of money is a particularly odious step that courts will not support.
Another misconception is that parents should call the police to resolve parenting complications. Police are often reluctant to get involved in these situations unless a child is in imminent danger. Thus, parents should check their parenting agreement or court order for a police enforcement clause. And even then, police assistance should be employed only with great caution.
Keeping a child from their parent can be harmful to the child and the parent. Should this situation arise, addressing it immediately and appropriately can be crucial.