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The Unreliable Parent and Child Visitation

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Divorce can cause children many emotional, behavioral and academic problems, so both parents should strive to provide a reliable schedule and routine children can depend on. A parent who is awarded visitation with the child should make every effort to be there for the child.

For custodial parents, it can be very frustrating when the non-custodial parent is unreliable and inconsistent about child visitation. Custodial parents are the ones who witness a child's heartbreak and disappointment when a non-custodial parent stands them up or cancels visitation. It can be a real challenge for a parent to maintain composure and mask anger while comforting a child who feels unwanted, unimportant or unloved by the other parent.

How to Handle an Unreliable Parent

A child visitation schedule is made with the best interest of the child in mind. Parent-child face time is the right of the child, not the parent. When a visitation agreement cannot be maintained, it may need to be modified by the court. A parent who regularly prepares a child for visits that don't occur may wish to petition the court for a change in the child visitation schedule.

Custodial parents who see a lack of concern, consistency and reliability in the non-custodial parent should keep a record of all visitation times that are skipped and times when the child is picked up or returned late. With this documentation in hand, it may be easier to show a court concrete examples of visitation disappointments and demonstrate the need to modify child custody and visitation.

When a court order for child visitation is in place, the custodial parent generally may not deny an unreliable parent access to the child or declare the visitation agreement invalid. Even if a parent is a regular no-show for visitation, the custodial parent has a duty to make the child available for visits in the event the non-custodial parent decides to exercise visitation.

Custodial parents who know the non-custodial parent will not exercise visitation may make other plans and notify the unreliable parent of the plans, should he or she decide to pick the child up at an alternate location.

Ex-spouses who have gone through particularly nasty divorces may wish to avoid each other at all costs after the divorce is finalized. While this may be completely fine for people without kids, parents must learn to put aside differences, at least on the surface, to co-parent children.

The best parenting agreements and visitation schedules allow for some flexibility. When divorced parents are able to communicate and work together during times when visitation may need to be rescheduled or changed, it can be extremely beneficial to the child. Parents should always be mindful that a child needs and is entitled to spend time with both parents. When divorced parents can be mutually respectful, the child benefits.


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