Custody & Visitation Law

What Can I Do if My Ex Won't Let Me See Our Child?

Whether you are divorced or co-parent with a former romantic partner, dealing with visitation issues can be emotionally charged. Some parents withhold visitation as a way to get back at or make it harder for exes to move forward after parting ways.

Right to Reasonable Visitation

When a couple splits up, typically the noncustodial parent receives the right to reasonable visitation. This requires you and your spouse to be flexible and work together to create a workable visitation schedule, but unfortunately it may also lead to conflict for some.

Not seeing your child can be heartbreaking and frustrating, especially when your ex is preventing you from spending time with your child. By doing so, your ex-spouse is violating the visitation order from the court and interfering with your rights. However, you have options to resolve this issue so you can get back to what is most important: having a relationship with your child.

Communication with Your Ex-Partner

As with most family law issues, communication is key. Often the first step in resolving visitation disputes is trying to talk with your ex in a calm and logical manner. Although you may have already tried this method, it never hurts to try again. It may save you from having to go back to court or your child from additional negative effects.

What If a Child Doesn't Want to Visit the Other Parent?

Sometimes a child may say they do not want to visit you, the noncustodial parent. However, this does not invalidate the visitation order, as the court awarded visitation after evaluating the best interests of the child.

Additionally, your ex-spouse should not be turning your child against you or trying to get your child to refuse visitation. It is the job of the custodial parent, your ex-spouse, to ensure your child does in fact visit with the other parent.

Legal Options for Visitation Issues

If your ex-partner is not willing to communicate in a civil manner, or you can't reach an agreement together, you may need to take legal action and ask the court for assistance. Keeping track of your communication as well as any dates you were refused visitation can be helpful information for your attorney when building your case.

Request to Clarify Specific Terms

Sometimes child visitation issues stem from the original visitation order itself. Asking the court to clarify or resolve the problematic terms with the child custody court order may be beneficial. This way, you and your ex-partner can have a clear understanding of your visitation schedule moving forward.

Say your visitation order states the child should be brought back to your ex by "dinner time" on Sunday. In your mind, this may mean 6:30 p.m., but your ex considers it to be 5:00 p.m. As a result, your ex decides not to let you take your child for the day because they believe you are always late for drop off. Here, “dinner time" is a vague phrase that could easily be resolved by a court order with a specific time.

Visitation Modification Requests

Some visitation issues may stem from a scheduling issue. Perhaps the agreement you and your ex-spouse once had no longer works. In some instances, your child may be refusing to see you because your visitation schedule overlaps with a school activity or a sporting event.

One way to resolve this issue and prevent your ex from keeping you from spending time with your child is to file a visitation modification request with the court. By going through the court system to make this change, this makes the new visitation schedule in the order legally binding and protects your rights to visitation moving forward.

Court Enforcement

If your ex-spouse is still unwilling to work with you to reach an agreement and is refusing your visitation rights, it may be time to turn to the court system to enforce the visitation order. Since a visitation order from the court is legally binding, the court can hold your ex accountable for any violations.

Although you may pursue this independently, this is the point where the majority of people turn to an attorney for assistance. Your lawyer can file the proper documentation with the court, strongly advocate on your behalf, and request that the court enforces the visitation order.

Penalties for Violating Visitation Orders

Violating a visitation order may have some serious consequences for your ex-spouse. They may be found in contempt of court, be ordered to reimburse you for your attorney fees, and allow you to make-up any missed visitation time they withheld from you. In some more extreme cases, they may even be sentenced to jail.

Increasing Visitation and Child Custody

One parent withholding visitation and parenting time from the other parent can be the beginning of a larger issue. As mentioned above, some more extreme cases may even lead to jail time for an ex-spouse withholding visitation. This may cause you to consider modifying visitation or even pursuing a partial or complete child custody modification to increase your involvement in your child's life and ensure their well-being. If you do pursue a modification, you should also consider how it may impact child support issues. 

If this is an avenue you are considering pursuing, your attorney can explain the process of revisiting child custody and guide you through the process. The court aims to protect the best interests of the child, so any major negative or unhealthy changes in the child's life with the custodial parent may indicate a need for change.

Why a Family Law Attorney Can Help

Not being able to see your child not only negatively impacts your life, but it may have a major impact on your child's happiness and stability as well. Due to the gravity of the issue, hiring an attorney experienced in family law can be critical.

Your attorney can file the appropriate documents with the court and create an effective legal strategy for presenting your case in court. Having an attorney can also help ease the strain of communicating with your ex about this issue, and it may even help you reach an agreement to avoid the need to go to court altogether.

Hiring an attorney may seem daunting, but a number of family law attorneys offer free consultations to review your case and have a conversation about the process. After talking with the attorney, and if you determine they are a good fit for you, they can discuss their fees with you and go over their retainer agreement. Some law firms allow you to pay in installments or have payment plans to work with your financial situation.