It’s never a happy moment when your ex arrives at your door to pick up your kids and they refuse to go. What are you supposed to do in this situation? Whether the child is 6-years-old or 16-years-old, the answer can be quite different. When children begin to challenge a child custody order, it is important to understand where the law stands with regard to your next steps.
During a divorce, absent clear abuse, it is the responsibility of both parents to try to foster good relations with the other parent and between the parent and child. This is often no easy task. Ensuring that you watch what you say about your ex in front of your children is crucial in maintaining good relations. Making sure that you do not place your children in the middle of a conflict between you and your ex is also key.
As with any relationship, strong communication can often alleviate conflict. If your child is resistant to spending time with the other parent, be sure to let your child feel heard. This means asking them why they don’t want to go and, if they are unable to communicate their reasons, fishing the information from them. Some typical reasons children don’t want to see the other parent include:
Framing these reasons into questions can help your child communicate with you as to why they do not want to go. If there appears to be no abuse or child endangerment involved, you must find a way to explain in a way your child can understand, the reasons behind the child custody and visitation scheme.
For younger children in particular, you must make the decision to uphold the court order. This is not a decision the child can or should be making. For teenagers, the situation is a bit different. Courts recognize that teenagers should have a say in how their lives are arranged, due to things like increased activities, part time jobs, and the natural separation from parents that comes at this age.
If a young child does not want to abide by the court order and you agree, your ex can ask the judge to hold you in contempt of the order. Teens, on the other hand, are much harder to force into doing anything, much less visiting a parent when they’d rather be hanging out with friends. Threatening punishment for not spending time with a parent is counter-productive and the courts realize this.
If your teen wishes to have different custody arrangements, you can either try to negotiate new arrangements between the three of you, or, if that is not possible, go back to court to ask for a new custody arrangement.
Ultimately, everyone should be looking out for what is best for the children. This is what the courts will consider when changing child custody orders. If there is a legitimate reason that your child does not want to spend time with their other parent, such as abuse or neglect, then a court will investigate the situation and make a ruling based on their findings.
If you need advice on your child custody options and would like to speak with an attorney, please contact an experienced Illinois child custody lawyer at the Goodman Law Firm.
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