Hi, my name is Daphna Schwartz and I am a lawyer with Feldstein Family Law Group. Today I am going to talk to you about what to do if your child does not want to visit with their other parent.
Children not wanting to spend time with their other parent can put the custodial parent in a precarious catch 22. Many custodial parents are hesitant to force their child into visitation if it makes the child unhappy. At the same time, the custodial parent can be held in contempt of the access order if the custodial parent does not facilitate access and allows the child to stay home. Even if a custodial parent wants to comply with the access arrangement, is it unreasonable to expect that parent to physically force a child or teenager to go for access?
Parents in this predicament should approach the issue from the child’s perspective. Speak with your child to uncover the reason behind his or her reluctance to see the other parent. Some children act out because of difficulties adjusting to life after separation. Others may be feeling uncomfortable spending time alone with a parent who was rarely present in their pre-separation lives. Older children and teenagers, especially those with a weekend visitation schedule, might just rather spend time with their friends rather than an ‘uncool’ parent.
Having an understanding of a child’s motivations and feelings on the matter is the first step to finding the solution. Where a child is uncomfortable being alone with their access parent, the answer could simply be a temporary change to supervised access or a change in the location of the visit. It is not unheard of for parents to later discover that the original access arrangement was inappropriate for the child’s needs and requires adjustment.
If your child is reluctant to speak with you, encourage him or her to approach an adult they trust such as a teacher, relative or an older sibling, and possibly the other parent to discuss the situation at hand. Professional counseling can also help a child work through their feelings and discover the reasons underlying his or her discomfort.
Never attempt to coerce your child into cooperating. Never threaten or punish them for rejecting visitation. Anger and frustration only serves to escalate conflict, deepen resentment, and can seriously damage parent-child relationships. Focus on their needs and concerns rather than how the situation impacts you alone as the custodial parent that is supposed to facilitate access.