You are under court orders and your child decides they are NOT going to visit their other parent? What is the best way to handle this situation?
If you are under orders from the court to make the child available for visitation, you could be found in contempt of court if your ex decides to take this to a judge. Remember, court orders are in effect until they expire, or until a judge changes them. So, you can’t just ignore the issue. It is your problem.
The Reason Matters
Your child may not want to go because he or she doesn’t like it, or misses engaging with friends. Or, there could be a more serious reason. If your child suddenly refuses to cooperate with visitation, it is important to find out why. Did something happen? Is there someone new in the picture?
If there is a health and safety issue and it is truly dangerous to send your child to visitation, you will need to act to protect him or her. Depending on how serious the situation, you may need to discuss things with your ex, contact an attorney, or notify law enforcement. In the event you decide to withhold visitation to keep the child safe, you will be taking a risk of a contempt charge so you should know all of your options in advance and you will need to keep good records. It is best to talk with an attorney prior to doing this, if possible.
Always keep good records. If you do end up in court later, you can show a judge why you acted as you did. Good records include the following:
- A calendar of scheduled visitation, and a list of when visitation occurred. If it did not, notes as to why.
- Texts, emails and voice messages.
- Photos, when appropriate.
- Your notes or journal.
- Other documentation showing your concerns.
- Proof of your attempted cooperation.
- Records from a school counselor, or from a private health care practitioner relating to the situation.
What if Your Child is Being Obstinate?
What if there is no safety issue, but your child is still refusing? In this case, it is your obligation to follow the court orders. You should work with your ex as much as possible to try to solve the problem. Discuss the situation. Let him/ her know as soon as possible when there is an issue. Talk to the child together, when helpful. Consider counseling for your child, if appropriate.
If your case ends up in family court, a judge will take all of the facts and evidence into consideration. For instance, if you have a teenager who is uncooperative and you are doing what you can, you may not be found in contempt, even though you may be technically in contempt of the prior orders. If, however, you are encouraging a child to skip visitation, or have an attitude that says, “not my problem”, you will not appear favorably to the judge.
When to Contact a Lawyer
If you have a concern about the way things are going, it may be time to contact a lawyer and ask for a modification of the orders to be requested from the court. If you are truly concerned enough for the safety of your child it is best to contact a lawyer before you attempt to withhold, or postpone, visitation. Your family law attorney can help you decide the best course of action. She can also help you understand your options and discuss what to do in various situations.