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Child Refusing to Spend time with Other Parent

Is your child resisting spending time with the other parent? You are not alone. One of the most common questions parents ask family Lawyers is what they can do if their child is refusing to spend time or communicate with their other parent.

Whilst this can be a particularly emotional situation, and feelings of guilt could be influencing your decisions, you need to keep in mind that you are the parent and the one calling the shots, not the child. Suppose your child is refusing to spend time with the other parent. In that case, it is your obligation, by law, to encourage and facilitate the child spending time with the other parent, and in doing so, positively comply with court orders (if there are orders in place).

It is not enough to drive the child to the changeover location; you must actively encourage the child to go with the other parent. Some tips that may help you achieve this are:

  1. Encourage the child to go, by saying positive things to the child, such as “you will have fun with dad/mum”.
  2. Talk to the child about activities they can do with the other parent and identify positive things about spending time with the other parent.
  3. Stay calm and keep transitions short, sweet, and reassuring. Let the child know you will miss them, but that you want them to go and spend time with the other parent.  

Hopefully, with consistent positive reinforcement from you, your child will become more willing to spend time with the other parent.

Additionally, consider your own behaviour and how that could be influencing the child not to want to see their other parent. For example, badmouthing the other parent and/or interrogating the child about their time in the other parent’s care can influence the child’s desire to spend time with the other parent. These can be indicators of alienation or enmeshment and the Courts take a robust approach to ensuring the children have the benefit of both parents being in involved in their lives, which by law is a child’s right.  

It is within the Courts power to intervene where a child rejects or resists contact with a parent for no discernible reason, where a primary consideration is that it is in a child’s best interest to have a meaningful relationship with both parents. In such cases, the Court can order that the child be removed from the primary carer’s care and placed with the other parent, with a moratorium period (that is no time or contact at all with one parent) suspending the child’s time with the primary carer to allow the child time to adjust in the other parent’s care without the interference of the primary carer.

However, should your child remain adamant that they do not want to spend time with the other parent, or you are concerned that spending time with the other parent places the child at an unacceptable risk of harm, you may need to balance your obligations to comply with court orders and facilitate time against ensuring your child is protected from harm. In which case, you should immediately seek legal advice from an experienced Family Lawyer as there may be risk factors involved and other authorities such as the Police or the Department of Child Safety may need to be notified of the issues.

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