Facilitating a relationship between the child and the non-custodial parent is a requirement for the custodial parent. Our office just won two separate custody disputes where we alleged that the mother would not facilitate a relationship with their child and the father. The court in both instances agreed, and custody was modified to the father.
What exactly does it mean to facilitate a relationship? The courts look to the actions of both parents when making its finding about facilitation. Does the custodial parent interfere with the other’s parenting time? Show up late or leave early? Cancel parenting time? Call the Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) and report suspected child abuse? These are all things that can lead the court to make a finding that the custodial parent is not facilitating a relationship. Also, if a parent speaks negatively about the other parent, particularly if the child is within hearing, the court can make a finding that the parent cannot facilitate a relationship.
The courts look at many factors when deciding custody, and whether the custodial parent can facilitate or not, is just one of the factors under the statute, so many parents and lawyers do not give it a lot of weight. And when they don’t, this one factor is leading more and more judges to transfer custody. It is not something to be taken lightly. The courts are treating this seriously, and I’m glad to see it.
A parent who cannot facilitate must ask themselves, “Do I want to let the other parent see the child a couple of nights a month, or do I want to be the parent that only sees my child a couple of nights a month?” If you are a parent that cannot seem to control the negativity, or you believe that the other parent has no redeeming qualities, you might want to seek the help of a family therapist. If you want to be the custodial parent, you have to be able to encourage a relationship between your child and the other parent. If you cannot do that, the Court is unlikely to award you custody.
A child needs both of his parents. Even if you hate the other parent, even if the other parent is not the best mother/father…your child only has one father, one mother. Let your child have that relationship, encourage it, grow it. It is in your child’s best interest to know both of his parents.