Addressing Kids' Complaints About the Visitation Schedule
Children don’t always cope well with split parenting time. Dealing with your children’s complaints can be frustrating and overwhelming, especially if you aren’t sure how to respond. Whether you believe your ex has too much time or too little, if the court has ordered the visitation schedule, you must abide by it. However, there are several things you can do to make things easier for both you and your kids when it comes to visitation issues.
1. Put Yourself in Their Shoes
Before resorting to discipline or rescheduling visits with your co-parent, try to figure out why your child is resisting your visitation schedule. Whether you are the custodial parent or the parent with visitation rights, you still have a responsibility to make sure your children understand what is happening and cope with it as best as they are able. Just because a child doesn’t want to see their other parent, it doesn’t necessarily mean they are being mistreated or ignored at their home. In fact, the issue might not have anything to do with their parent at all.
So, before taking drastic measures, consider what else is going on in your child’s life that might make them resistant to the visitation schedule. Is your child having a hard time with change? Do they feel bad about leaving one parent, even temporarily? Or is there some other issue going on?
2. Talk To Your Kids About the Issue
Once you have a few ideas about what might be bothering your child, encourage them to talk to you about the issue and discuss what might be bothering them. Younger children might find this especially difficult, so you might want to have them draw a picture about how they feel or find some other outlet. However, if your children are old enough to explain their feelings, let them know that you want to know what’s bothering them so you can help them.
Sometimes kids react the way they do because they aren’t sure how else to deal with their emotions. In such cases, letting them talk it out is sometimes all the help they really need. Make sure your children know they can come to you and explain how they feel, and be sure to really listen to what they’re telling you. Is there something going on that’s causing them to feel this way? Are there things you can do to make the visitation arrangement easier for them? Let them talk it out and think about how you can build on what they’re telling you.
4. Communicate with Your Co-Parent
Once you’ve discussed the issue with your child, you should let your ex know what’s going on. If the two of you share an amicable co-parenting relationship, this might not be too difficult. In the best possible scenario, the two of you already communicate frequently about the wellbeing of your child. However, if things are more contentious between the two of you, you might need to approach this topic with care. Remember to highlight that you both have the same goal: the health and happiness of your child. Stay focused on common ground and let them know what the issue is. If possible, try to have a conversation about what the two of you as parents can do to make the visitation issue easier for your child.
5. Know When To Be Firm and When to Seek Legal Advice
Remember, you cannot skip out on visitation as it is a court-ordered obligation. Violating any court order can have serious short-term and long-term financial and legal consequences, including being found in contempt of court. Even if your child is dead-set against seeing their other parent, you must abide by court rules and follow through with any set visits. Do what you can work towards an applicable solution with your child and with their other parent, but be sure to honor the visitation schedule.
However, if you have concerns for your child’s health, safety, or welfare, you may need to seek an emergency court order. If you think you may need an emergency court order, or you are considering deviating from your current parenting plan without agreement from your former partner, then it is vital that you seek legal counsel right away.
Dealing with visitation and child custody issues can be difficult, especially when your children are having a difficult time coping. If you need to make a legal change by obtaining a modification, our firm can help.
Contact McKinley Irvin at our Oregon office to schedule a consultation with a family law attorney.