the court can make orders regarding your children until they turn eighteen.
Unless you believe that it is dangerous to you or your children you have to comply with the orders of the court. A reasonable excuse may also be in order, but more on that later.
There may be times when your child does not want to visit the other parent which understandably could upset the parent a lot. It is in the interests of your child to spend time with both parents, so if he or she is expressing unhappiness about visiting their other parent, it is vital that you speak to them and attempt to find out what the underlying cause of the problem is.
In doing this you should ask non-leading questions. You certainly should not offer reasons to the child for their reluctance to visit.
If you have a court order or a consent order you could get into serious trouble if you do not comply with it. Seeing the other parent is no more optional than attending school. The only excuse for not complying with the order would be if your child was ill or injured and you have a doctor’s certificate to prove it. Attendance at school camp is another acceptable excuse. If one of these reasons is preventing you from sending your child to their other parent, you must have informed your ex in writing of the circumstances or face the consequences.
Refusal to visit the other parent can have many causes
- The child may find it very difficult to spend time away from their primary caregiver
- In busy households, the child may feel neglected as little time is spent with him
- Vast differences in parenting styles may be the cause. Perhaps one parent is very strict and the other lax, so the child can do as he pleases in one house but must abide by strict rules in the other.
- If there is animosity between the parents the child may feel guilty about leaving one to go to the other.
- The length of time that your child has to spend with the other parent may weight on him if he is very attached to you and misses you badly. If this is the reason you could discuss a compromise with your spouse.
- Sleeping arrangements might be the cause as the child may have to share a room in one home and have his own in the other.
- Perhaps the other parent is not properly tending to the child
- Lastly, the reason may be more serious such as bullying, neglect or violence by someone who the child has to spend time with in the other home.
When you have discovered the underlying cause, it is time to get together with your ex to sort the problem out. This may take all your powers of persuasion. It may entail convincing your ex to spend more quality time with the child, or you may have to convince them that the visit must be split so that the child can see a little more of you during away visits. Maybe it’s just a case of allaying your child’s feelings of guilt by letting them know that Mom or Dad are okay while they are away.
Finding out the underlying cause of the problem is in the interests of the child and the family. Resolving base causes can make it much easier for the child, and they may even start asking to go to visit the other parent. It is also possible that the process of leaving one parent to go to the other is what distresses your child, and that he is perfectly happy a few minutes later. If this is the case you may just have to tolerate the upset when the time comes for your child to visit the other parent.
Children often find the process of separating from their primary caregiver quite distressing. You probably remember those first few days at day-care when your little one wept bitterly not wanting you to go, and then according to the teacher got straight into play as soon as you had left. Dropping your child off at your ex may bring out the same separation anxiety.
When you drop your child off you should not let them stretch out the farewells and look sad and unhappy, telling them how much you will miss them and continually going back for one more hug. Rather you should smile and cheerfully say goodbye, telling them to enjoy themselves. Your deeds and words should give them permission to have fun and enjoy their time with their Mom or Dad.
If there is a reason to believe that your child is avoiding the other parent due to some serious problem such as abuse, you should call your lawyer. If you have a reasonable belief (one that will withstand scrutiny) that your child is unsafe when in the other home, you do not have to send them to that home. It is, however, essential that you discuss the situation with your lawyer as failure to carry out an order of the court could have serious consequences for you.
If you are unsure of your duties and obligations under a court order you can read ‘Parenting Orders: Obligations, Consequences and Who Can Help’. It has been distributed by the family court to ensure that parents know their obligations when it comes to court orders. You can also find it online54. The brochure gives useful details on where to go when you need help. School counsellors and child psychologists are also valuable resources when you need to find out what is upsetting your child
When you have a court order you must take all reasonable steps to ensure that you carry out the orders of the court. If the court has decided that the child must spend time with the other parent it is your responsibility not only to ensure that the child is available to see their parent but actively encourage them to do so.
If you do not encourage your child to spend time getting to know their other parent, keeping them away, the court can make an order that the child must move to their other parent.
Disclaimer : This article provides basic information only and is not a substitute for a professional or legal advice. It is prudent to obtain legal advice from a family lawyer.