Here is what you should do when your ex-spouse does not allow you to see your child:
- Ask yourself: Is your ex-spouse justified in preventing you from seeing your child?
- Find out whether it is the child who perhaps does not wish to see you.
- Engage in a frank discussion with your ex-spouse and try to resolve the matter.
- Take the recommended legal action.
The courts always decide on child custody based on the best interests of the child. After taking all the factors into account, the courts approve a parenting plan, also referred to as a custodial arrangement, which is included in the divorce decree and is legally binding. Both parents are required to follow the custody/visitation schedules specified in the parenting plan.
However, a parent may stop the other parent from seeing the child for a variety of reasons, including revenge, hatred, resentment, non-payment of alimony and/or child support, and more. Well, these are not valid reasons to deny an ex-spouse his/her custodial/visitation rights that have been approved by the courts – in fact, denying these rights amounts to contempt of court.
In any case, here are the logical steps to take when your ex-spouse stops you from seeing your child:
1. Ask Yourself: Is Your Ex Justified In Preventing Your Visit?
Your ex-spouse can prevent you from visiting your child if he/she is aware of or has good evidence that your meeting will expose the child to imminent danger (emotional or physical). Mere suspicion of harm to the child is not enough, there must be awareness or evidence. For example, if you are noticeably intoxicated then your ex-spouse can stop you from seeing the child. In fact, in such a scenario your ex-spouse can even call the police if you, in any way, try to enforce the visitation.
However, after preventing you from visiting the child, your ex-spouse should report the matter to the police, obtain a police report, and file it with the courts as evidence of your bad behavior. Now, you don’t have to do this, but it creates a paper trail for a judge to see, and is more useful than a he-said-she-said situation.
Consult the matter with your custody attorney and if he/she believes that the denial was justified, then you should prepare for the possibility of going back to court to enforce your parent-time.
2. Find Out If Your Child Does Not Wish To See You
Your ex-spouse may have prevented your visitation because the child may have refused to see you. However, know that the courts believe that a child needs the love and care of both parents, and that the child may have acted immaturely – perhaps, your ex-spouse may have bad-mouthed you to your child or played dirty. Note, however, that your custodial arrangement approved by the courts cannot be altered simply because your child refuses to see you.
If your child’s refusal is the reason why your visitation was denied, you can consider taking a lenient view of the situation and reasoning out the situation with your ex-spouse and child.
3. Engage In A Frank Discussion And Try To Resolve The Matter
Your ex-spouse may have prevented your visit because he/she had misinterpreted the terms of the custodial arrangement, got emotionally triggered, or for malicious reasons. Give him/her a chance to explain the refusal before taking any legal action – if matters can be resolved by some plain talking, and listening, a lot of bad blood would not exist in our world. Communicating calmly can save you trips to the courts and legal fees.
4. Take The Recommended Legal Action
If you have not done anything wrong and your best communication efforts have failed, then it is time to get the courts involved and punish your ex-spouse for not following the court-approved visitation schedule. Before consulting your custody attorney, document all the evidence against your ex-spouse (journal, photographs, audio/video recordings, witness accounts). Your options may be:
(a) You can ask the courts to resolve any problems with the technicalities in the custodial arrangement if the visitation was refused because certain terms were unclear. For example, if the custodial arrangement says you can visit or pick up the child at “lunchtime,” then the timing has to be specified. You may be having lunch at 12.30 P.M. while your spouse may partake in his/her lunch at 1.30 P.M.
(b) If your ex-spouse refused visitation because he/she was busy at that time, you can request the courts to modify the visitation schedule so that both of you are not inconvenienced.
(c) If your ex-spouse has acted in bad faith, then you can request the courts to enforce the custodial arrangement and penalize your ex-spouse for violating the court order. Your ex-spouse may be found in contempt of court, the penalties for which include fines, community service, or even jail time.
If your ex-spouse has acted maliciously, you can also ask the courts to modify the custodial arrangement and grant you partial or full child custody. Here too, the courts take your ex-spouse’s bad behavior into account, and reconcile it with the child’s best interests, but they may or may not modify the custodial arrangement.