Child custody battles are often an unfortunate part of divorce. Parents jockey back and forth about parenting time and who sees the kids how much. And that’s one of biggest changes that comes with ending a marriage. You may go from seeing your kids every day to once every few weeks depending on the parenting plan, where you live, and other factors. While that’s frustrating in its own right, what happens when your ex denies visitation?
There are multiple ways your ex may deny visitation. It can be an overt and outright refusal to let you see your child. Then again, it may be subtle and less obvious. Is your child mysteriously ill every time it’s your turn for visitation? Do last minute plans pop up when it’s your weekend to have the kids? Schedules shift, kids gets sick, and plans do change, but it’s when this becomes a prolonged pattern that it’s an issue.
If there’s any good news in this situation, it’s that denying visitation is illegal without a change in a court order. And the court views having both parents in a child’s life as being in their best interest. In cases of abuse or endangerment, there may be exceptions, but those are extreme circumstances. Denying visitation can even lead to contempt charges, though those are usually reserved for repeat offenders.
Legal standing doesn’t make the situation any easier or less maddening, but it means you have options. Here are some things to do if your ex denies visitation.
Documenting every instance when your ex denies visitation is an important step. If you get an email that says plans changed, keep it. The same also goes for any text messages, voicemails, or social media posts. If other people witness this, they may be able to testify on your behalf. Some people even go so far as to suggest filing a police report for each denial, though that may be a bit intense. That may even amplify any conflict and make the situation worse. However you go about it, these records will help substantiate your case if you go to court.
Don’t Stop Paying Child Support
If your ex denies visitation, stopping child support payments makes sense to some people. After all, if your ex withholds something, you withhold something else in return, right? Though it may tempt you, don’t do that. Such retaliation won’t help your cause and will just make things worse. From a legal point of view, visitation and child support are totally separate things. You can’t just stop paying child support if your ex denies your visitation. Instead of helping your cause, this damages your position and even open you up to potential legal action. And in the end, it only hurts the kids.
Try To Talk It Out
If you and your ex are still in regular contact and on fairly good terms, it may be possible to talk things out. Ideally, both of you share an equal investment in co-parenting and doing what’s best for the kids. This is likely a new situation for both parties. There are bound to be growing pains and it benefits you to remain flexible as both sides work out the kinks. It may be as simple as rearranging the schedules. If you’re able to, hopefully, you can get together and deal with the situation like adults before tensions escalate.
Have Your Attorney Make Contact
It’s often the case that an ex denies your visitation in some sort of power play. It can be an attempt to be in control or even designed to hurt you. In some cases, if you can’t work it out on your own, having an attorney send a strongly worded letter may be enough. Be clear that you’re willing to talk things out. But also be firm and make it known that if you’re continually denied court-ordered visitation, you may take legal action. Sometimes just that threat is enough to move the needle.
File A Motion With The Court
If your ex continually denies visitation, and you can’t work things out on your own, you may have to file a motion with the court. The court may do any number of things in response. It can alter the plan if the instructions aren’t clear, increase your visitation rights, award additional visits, or even decrease the amount of spousal support. In more severe cases, the court may find your ex in contempt of court or order counseling. More extreme cases may even call for a change of custody.
Don’t Just Take The Kids
Don’t just show up and take kids when it’s not your time even if you feel owed. That may very well be construed as kidnapping, which obviously has significant legal ramifications. And even if that doesn’t happen, you give your ex ammunition to use against you in court. It may get you momentary time with the kids, but it’s a move that can backfire in so many serious, permanent ways.
Your ex denying visitation can be a slippery slope. It may start out small and occasional. Schedules definitely change and things pop up, especially as kids get increasingly busy. Be flexible, but also keep an eye open to whether these are just normal, everyday occurrences or if your ex is trying to push boundaries. It’s important to set the rules up front, abide by them, and do what you can to ensure your ex does as well.