Can A Child Decide Not To See A Parent?
A reoccurring question for parents involved in parenting-time (access) disputes is— how to deal with a child who is unwilling to attend court-ordered access visits or in other words children resisting court-ordered parenting time.
The simple answer is that Ontario Family Courts are adamant in their approach to dealing with children who are unwilling to attend court-ordered access. The obligation is on the parent who has parenting time with the child, to deal with this situation in the same way that they would if the child was declining to go to school. That being, the parent must encourage the child to have parenting time with the other parent, as set out in the court order. This may ultimately make the parent uncomfortable, but it must be reiterated that, if there is a court order, it must be followed.
Obligation for Parents to Facilitate Parenting-Time (Access)
When parents become separated, there is an obligation on both parents to support and encourage the child to see the other parent, because that is in the child’s best interests. Section 24 (3) of the Children’s Law Reform Act places a heavy emphasis on each parent’s willingness to support the development and maintenance of the child’s relationship with the other parent. Case law in this area further suggests that the ability of a parent to support the parent on the other end of proceedings does in fact show the parent’s ability to parent.
However, if you believe that there are valid reasons for the child to not see the other parent, kindly contact Nussbaum Family Law and we would be happy to advise you on the next steps.
In the interim, here are some useful tips to consider when encouraging your child to have parenting time with the other parent:
- Communicate with your child. Learn more about why they are hesitant about going to see the other parent. If you think your child would feel more comfortable speaking with a third party, think about getting a counsellor involved.
- Communicate with the other parent. Inform the other parent about the difficulties that are arising and how to potentially resolve them. For example, if drop-offs and pick-ups are scheduled at the home, maybe try to arrange for them to take place at the child’s school.
- Speak positively about the other parent. It is important for your child to feel secure and know that you are respectful of them visiting the other parent. Let your child know that you are not upset with them.
It is only in specific situations, such as if you fear for your child’s safety, that you may be able to speak with your local Children’s Aid Society.
Further, you also have the option of returning to court. If there is a final order in place and you would like to change it, you will need to bring a motion to change. Speak with one of our lawyers at Nussbaum Family Law on what a motion to change is and how it can apply to your specific case.
It is important to reiterate that Ontario Family Courts assume that it is in the best interests for your child to have a relationship with all parents post-separation. Using the best interests of the child test, the courts will look at all the evidence presented to them and decide decision-making responsibility and parenting time. If the court requires testimony from the child or evidence of the child’s wishes to help them decide, the Judge can request for the Office of the Children’s Lawyer to get involved or have the child meet with a social worker who can prepare a voice of the child report.
Parents on the other end of the spectrum
Seeing your child less frequently can be difficult. The situation becomes exacerbated when the other parent is informing you that the child does not want to have parenting time with you. If you are in this situation, it is extremely important to cooperate and try and find a solution. If your case returns to court, it is important to be able to show the court that you can work with the other parent.
If you believe that the other parent is purposely not following the court order, and open communication between the two of you is not working, kindly contact Nussbaum Family Law and we can advise you on the next steps.
In the interim, here are some useful tips to consider if your child is reluctant to see you:
- Communicate with the child. Speak with them and see if there are other activities they would prefer doing instead.
- Try new things with the child, rather than sticking to a strict routine for each planned visit.
- Be compassionate with the child. As frustrating as this situation may be for you, it is important to understand that this situation may also be very difficult for the child.
All in all, parenting time is the right of the child and not the right of the parent. A parent with parenting time must facilitate that parenting time with the other parent and the child.