In a divorce or separation situation, it is not usual to hear there are times a child doesn’t want to see the other parent for parenting time. When couples with children divorce or break up, the court will typically enter what’s called a Joint Parenting Agreement. The Joint Parenting Agreement lays out the responsibilities of each parent as it pertains to the children. These responsibilities include designating the custodial parent, decision-making and parenting schedules.
Do I Have to Make My Child See the Other Parent If They Don’t Want to Go?
There could be a variety of reasons children do not want to see the other parent. Many times the reasons are minor like the children would rather spend time with their friends. Other times the reasons could be more serious. If the reasons are serious, the obvious question that arises is “do I have to make my child see their other parent?”
The short answer is it depends… but most of the time, yes.
The most important thing to remember when making a decision is that the Joint Parenting Agreement is entered as a Judgment in Court. This means if a parent does not comply with the Court ordered parenting time there can be consequences, including contempt.
Ask WHY Your Child Doesn’t Want to Be With the Other Parent
When your child expresses concern or hesitancy to go with their other parent, you should ask why and find out what is behind the child’s concerns. If the concern is not serious, then you need to speak with your child and explain the importance of spending time with the other parent and having a relationship with that parent. This is especially true if you are the “custodial parent.” If the Court has designated you the custodial parent, that means the Court expects you to foster a relationship between your child and the other parent.
Serious Concerns May Require an Order of Protection
Now, if the concern is serious, you should contact an attorney immediately. Depending on your concerns, you may need to file a Petition for an Order of Protection on behalf of your minor child. If the matter is serious but less urgent, you may need to file a Petition to Modify the parenting time.
To obtain an order of protection on behalf of your child, you must show abuse which means harassment, interference with personal liberty or physical abuse. Orders of Protection can be done on an emergency basis. To Modify the parenting plan, you must show a substantial change in circumstances. A substantial change in circumstances can be a variety of issues, such as a change in work schedule or the parent not exercising parenting time. It will be important to contact an attorney to evaluate whether your situation amounts to a substantial change in circumstances.
Parenting Plan and Right To See Your Child
Now, what if you are the parent not receiving parenting time? You have the right to see your child pursuant to Court order. Again, you should contact an attorney. Motions to Enforce a parenting agreement can be brought to court on an emergency basis, especially if the other parent is refusing especially if it is a special date that you are supposed to have parenting time with your child. You can also file a “Petition for Rule to Show Cause” which is basically a contempt petition if your the other parent is not following a court order.
Mediation When Issues Arise with Parenting Plan
If you are having difficulty with parenting time, you can try to work out parenting time issues with the other parent. Whether you seek the assistance of a neutral third party or seek more formal assistance with a family law mediator, cooperatively reaching an agreement with the other parent can improve your co-parenting efforts. Some Parenting Agreements have a mediation clause which means before you take a parenting plan issue to court, you and the other parent are required to seek resolution using with a mediator.
In either situation, the most important steps are to speak with the child and then contact an experienced family law attorney you trust. Contact our office today to schedule a confidential consultation about your parenting plan or when your child doesn’t want to see the other parent.