You have primary custody of your child, and your co-parent has visitation rights that are detailed in your custody and visitation agreement. However, when it’s time for your child to go to your co-parent’s home, they resist. Depending on their age, they may throw a temper tantrum or simply refuse to go.
Your co-parent may believe that you’ve done or said something to turn your child against them. However, you’re sure that you haven’t. Meanwhile, you’re concerned about being penalized by the court for not adhering to the parenting time arrangement. What should you do?
Find out why your child doesn’t want to visit their other parent. Maybe there’s a new significant other they don’t like. Perhaps they’d rather hang out with their friends. Maybe your co-parent has stricter rules than you do — or weak wi-fi. It could be something that simple. Whatever the issue, if it doesn’t affect your child’s safety or well-being, you need to give your co-parent the access they’re legally entitled to.
No matter how you feel about your co-parent, it’s important to encourage these visits. It’s typically best when co-parents can work together to resolve the issue. Presenting a united front can encourage your child not to play one parent against the other.
You should both work to make transitions between homes as uneventful as possible. Never use them as a time to deal with old grudges or new issues.
If you’re late in getting your child to your co-parent or if you’re unable to convince them to go at all, make sure your co-parent is aware of the situation. Keep notes about what happened. If your co-parent doesn’t know what’s going on or thinks you’re doing something to poison your child against them, they could seek a “show cause hearing” where you’d be required to explain why you aren’t complying with the agreement.
How much sympathy a judge has for your efforts to comply could depend in large part on your child’s age. It’s a lot harder to make a 16-year-old do something they don’t want than a toddler. However, under the law, neither is old enough to refuse to see a parent (assuming there’s no abuse, neglect or safety issue).
Before it gets to that point, it may be wise to seek advice from your family law attorney. Their guidance may help you avoid ending up in court again.