There are few things worse for a parent than no longer being able to live with their kids. It’s terribly hard to suddenly be unable to help with homework, share a favorite TV show, or tuck them in at night. When your kids don’t live with you most of the time, you cherish your parenting time, either specifically awarded by the court or agreed upon with your ex.
But what happens when your ex denies you that time? You may feel buried under an avalanche of emotions: anger at your ex, fear that your relationship with your kids will erode, sadness at missing your children. It’s hard, in that situation, not to react with strong emotion. That is almost never a good way to resolve the issue, though. Here are some suggestions for what you should do, and how, to get your parenting time back on track–as well as cautions about what not to do.
First, take a look at the order which grants you parenting time. Is it specific–say, every other weekend from 5:00 p.m. on Friday to 6:00 p.m on Sunday, and certain other times? Or is it “reasonable parenting time?” If you’re being denied specific time granted to you, it may be easier to get a judge to enforce the order. Sometimes judges order, “reasonable parenting time” in order to allow for flexibility. Sometimes a breakup is amicable enough that such non-specific language works for the parties. If it stops working, a call to your attorney is in order to try to get the parenting time order modified and made more specific.
Do communicate with your ex, but don’t be hostile or inflammatory. If you show up to pick up your child, and your ex refuses to let her go with you, or isn’t there, note your concern. It’s often best to e-mail or text. That provides both a record of the communication, and can prevent the discussion from deteriorating into a shouting match. Stick to the facts: “I came to pick Kayla up at 5:00 p.m. yesterday and you weren’t there. I waited for 45 minutes but couldn’t reach you. What was going on? It’s important that she gets to spend plenty of time with each of us.” Remember to keep the focus on your child’s right to, and need for, both of her parents
Keep a record of every incident where parenting time is interfered with or denied, and again, note specifics. This will assist your attorney if it’s necessary to make a motion to enforce or modify parenting time.You’re much more likely to win if your lawyer can point to several specific incidents that create a pattern of denial of time on your ex’s part than if you simply state, “He/she never lets me see the kids.”
Consider the kids’ schedule. If your ex is denying parenting time because it interferes with the kids’ activities, remind him or her that you are available to take the kids to their sporting events, practices, or even sleepovers with friends. As kids get older, they will naturally want to spend more time on these activities–but that doesn’t mean your ex is the one who has to take them.
Make use of technology. If your kids are old enough to have their own phones, set up regular times to call and Facetime, even if it’s just five minutes at bedtime. Text with your teens. With kids of all ages, Skype is a great way to “see” each other when you can’t be together. If your ex has this technology available but denies use of it, make note of that for your lawyer as well.
Never yell at your ex or threaten your ex, whether or not your children can hear you. Your ex can use this against you and may argue that your outbursts make him or her fearful that the kids are unsafe around you. They could even be recording you. Also, never speak negatively to your children about their other parent. It doesn’t help your cause, it makes them feel bad, and you wouldn’t want your ex to do it to you. Not to mention, judges come down very hard on parents who do this. Take the high road, even if your ex doesn’t. It’s better for your kids in the long run, and sooner or later, they’ll appreciate it.
Lastly, don’t give up. Keep showing up for parenting time, even if your ex has repeatedly denied it. Your children need you and need to know you want to see them. If reasonable attempts to communicate with your ex have not been successful, it may be time to go back to court to get the order enforced. Michigan divorce attorney Carlo Martina has decades of experience in helping his clients get the parenting time that they and their children need.
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