Now that your custody case has been settled or temporarily ordered by a judge and you know when you are supposed to have visitation with your child, you might have expected smooth sailing. Unfortunately, some parents find that their ex refuses to allow visitation as ordered by the court or agreed upon in a parenting plan. If this is happening to you, it’s natural that you feel angry, disappointed, sad, and worried. If your ex is refusing visitation, read on to find out what you should (and should not) do.
Keep Track of Dates
Although you might have specific visitation times (every other weekend and every Tuesday evening, for example), it’s reasonable that there will be some times when visitation will be postponed or rescheduled. For instance, if your child is sick, it would not be in their best interest to go out to dinner with you as planned on your scheduled Tuesday. Or if you are moving to a new home on your scheduled weekend, it would be reasonable for your ex to request that you switch weekends to keep your child out of the way during the move.
For situations like these, it’s best to compromise with your ex-spouse and come up with a way to make up the visitation, so long as you both agree. Maybe you can take your son or daughter for two evenings the next week, once the illness has passed. Or you might be able to switch weekends to accommodate something like a move or travel. This type of arrangement doesn’t need to go through the courts or be approved by a judge. Still, keep track of them by writing them down in your planner or using your phone’s calendar, just in case an occasional situation becomes a chronic situation.
Address Any Reasonable and Fixable Concerns
Not all incidences of refusing visitation are due to a parent trying to keep the child from the other parent. Sometimes there are extenuating circumstances that might be able to be solved without going through the court system. Talk to your ex and ask what’s going on. You might find that tweaking the visitation agreement will be the easiest and most effective course of action.
For example, if your ex is supposed to provide transportation and bring the child to you on Friday evenings but their car is in the shop, this doesn’t mean that they’re necessarily refusing visitation. Simply arrange to be the one to provide transportation this one time. Or, if their car has broken down and they cannot afford to have it fixed, you might need to offer to provide transportation for the foreseeable future. While inconvenient, it is a fix that can allow you to continue seeing your child.
Sometimes, it’s not as simple. Maybe you have recently started seeing a new partner and your ex does not approve of this person spending time with your child. This is often a situation where you need to compromise. You might like to have your new partner spending a lot of time with your child right from the beginning, but it’s not unreasonable for you to limit meetings to once per week or to agree not to leave your child in your new partner’s care for a certain number of months. While you could take this type of situation to court, it is, in many cases, more beneficial to attempt to work out these types of disagreements on your own.
File a Motion With the Court
If you have talked to your ex and have tried to facilitate solutions and compromise but they are still refusing visitation for you, it’s time to consider going to court. Talk to your legal advocate to find out the best course of action. Depending on your state, a police report might be your first step. You won’t be calling the police to have your ex arrested, of course; you’re just making sure that the case is documented and that a report is filed. Have a copy of the court order handy and be sure to control your emotions. A police report might be enough to convince your ex to follow the court order and allow for visitation.
In other states, the police will not want to get involved. In this case, your first step might be to file a motion of contempt. You will be accusing your ex of being in contempt of the court order. Depending on the situation, you might instead ask to modify or simply enforce the current court order. Your legal resource group will be able to help you decide exactly what to ask for and what steps to take to improve your chances of having the judge agree with you.
What Not to Do
While it’s very frustrating being refused visitation, there are some things that you should be sure not to do. These actions could cause a judge to side with your ex and you might even be held in contempt of court or denied visitation by the court system.
- Do not withhold child support. If you are ordered to pay child support, recognize that those funds are owed to your child, not to your ex. Even if you are angry with your ex, you still must pay your court-ordered child support. Skipping payments could put you in contempt of court. Even more importantly, it can cause your child to have to go without the things that he or she needs. Don’t take out your frustration on your child; he or she didn’t choose for your visitation to be withheld.
- Do not badmouth your ex to your child. Called parental alienation syndrome, badmouthing your ex can cause a variety of negative feelings and behaviors in your child. First, remember that your child loves his or her other parents, and badmouthing him or her can lead to feelings of guilt, anger, and sadness. Secondly, parental alienation is against the law and could lead to your ex refusing visitation in the future. Contact a legal expert for help rather than discuss the case with your child.
- Do not do anything fueled by anger. Any type of verbal or physical harassment or abuse could be grounds for you losing visitation or needing to have supervised visitation with your child. Again, contact legal counsel rather than express your frustration in a negative way.
Family Law Legal Group can help if you are being denied visitation by your ex. Contact us today!