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What to do if Noncustodial Parent Refuses to Communicate With Custodial Parent

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What to do if Noncustodial Parent Refuses to Communicate With Custodial Parent

Co-parenting with someone you no longer share a relationship with can be challenging. According to guidelines laid out under Ontario family law, effective communication between separated parents is not just a recommendation but a cornerstone for fostering a stable environment for the children. Unfortunately, this responsibility is not always understood by both parties.

In instances where the separation may have been a messy ordeal, the noncustodial parent refuses to communicate with the custodial parent. They may be unwilling to listen, unresponsive, or absent from their children’s lives altogether. From legal ramifications to the emotional toll on the children, the impact of such a situation is far-reaching.

In this article, we will attempt to offer insightful guidance to custodial parents in this situation. We will explore the various facets of this issue, touching on the types of child custody recognized in Ontario, the rights and responsibilities of both parents, as well as practical steps to resolve any disagreements.

Custodial vs. Noncustodial Parent: Understanding the Difference

If the recent divorce of you and your partner resulted in you being granted sole custody (or decision-making responsibility under updated laws), that makes you the custodial parent of your child. You have the sole responsibility for making major decisions about your child while caring for him. Your child will also consider your residence as his permanent home.

A noncustodial parent, on the other hand, is the parent with whom the child does not live with. He or she is unable to make decisions regarding the welfare of the child on their own, though they may be granted “parenting time” with their children as outlined in an access order.

Types of Child Custody in Ontario

In legal terms, the word “custody” is deemed to be the decision-making responsibility a guardian holds on behalf of his or her minor children under the age of 18.  This is clearly established in the Children’s Law Reform Act under Ontario family law. Custody can include matters like healthcare, choice of schools, or religious traditions the child will follow. 

Unlike what most people may believe, the physical location of the child is not what determines the custodial relationship with their parent. For example, a child could live with both parents equally but have only his mother as the custodial parent since she is the decision maker.

The state may award parents one of four different types of custody, namely joint, shared, split, or sole custody. We have discussed each of them in more detail below:

1. Joint

Joint custody refers to when both parents have equal input into decisions related to raising the children. This is typically awarded when both parents are heavily involved in the children’s lives and also maintain a cordial relationship with one another. 

Joint custody does not have anything to do with where the child physically lives, with most children having a “primary residence” with one of their parents. For example, you can have joint legal custody of your children but only spend summer vacations with them in your home.

2. Shared

Shared custody refers to a situation where the child spends time living with both parents almost equally. This is quantified under Ontario law, with both parents being mandated to spend at least 40% of the time with their children. Child support must also be paid by both parents in this scenario, relative to their annual income.

4. Split

Split custody is an option where parents with multiple children divide custodial responsibilities, each taking primary care of different children. This arrangement suits situations where it best serves an individual child’s needs, considering sibling dynamics and parental bonds. 

Decisions are based on the child’s best interests, their preferences, and each parent’s capability to provide a stable environment. While it can reduce familial conflict, it also means siblings are separated, warranting careful consideration of its emotional impact.

5. Sole

Sole custody is when one parent solely cares for the child and is the only one with decision-making responsibilities. The other parent may or may not have access to the child for parenting time or visitation.

Rights and Responsibilities of Custodial and Noncustodial Parents

Child Support

Both the federal Divorce Act and Ontario Family Law Act lay out specific Child Support Guidelines for both parents. In the case of sole custody, the noncustodial parent of a child is obligated to pay child support to the custodial parent 

This is a fixed sum of money to be paid each month, covering the child’s expenses like rent, food, and clothing. The magnitude of these payments is calculated by taking into account the number of children the noncustodial parent has as well as his or her annual income.

In case the noncustodial parent refuses to communicate with the custodial parent concerning child support, the payment can be enforced by the court through a court order or separation agreement. The Family Responsibility Office (FRO) will then step in to retrieve the owed amount from the noncustodial parent, along with a possible fine and any legal costs made.

Parental Decisions

The custodial parent has sole decision-making responsibility toward their child concerning all of their day-to-day matters. This includes choice of schools, decisions related to their health, permission for extra-curricular activities, languages taught, and religious instructions. As dictated in the Divorce Act, they must exercise this responsibility in the best interests of the child.

On the other hand, noncustodial parents have a right to gain information concerning their child’s health, education, and welfare. This includes access to medical records and report cards. The custodial parent is also advised to discuss any major life decisions related to the child with the noncustodial parent, though legally they do have the final say.

Visitation

Legally, it is the right of the child to maintain access to their noncustodial parent. If the custodial parent attempts to refute this in any way, he or she can be charged with contempt of court, fined, or possibly even imprisoned.

Visitation can be a fixed number of hours per week, flexible based on the schedules of both parents or in the form of supervised visits. The noncustodial parent also maintains the right to attend school events, birthday parties, and other activities involving the child.

Practical Steps to Address Non-communication

Some parents may act in an uncooperative manner with their ex-partners, resulting in the custodial parent feeling overwhelmed. If you have sole custody of your children and can’t seem to communicate with your ex, below are some options you can explore to resolve the situation.

Child Custody- Practical Steps to Address Non-communication
  • Maintain a neutral tone: Sometimes a noncustodial parent may refuse communication for fear of starting a fight. By avoiding the use of overly emotional language when conversing, you can maintain an aura of decency and professionalism which your ex may then emulate in return.
  • Create a co-parenting plan: You don’t need to talk every day with your ex-partner to ensure both of you are meeting your parenting responsibilities. Draft up a co-parenting plan highlighting all the important matters like visitation and child support payments so you no longer need to stay in contact regularly.
  • Avoid face-to-face contact: In case the noncustodial parent is high-conflict and uncooperative, avoiding face-to-face contact may be an effective strategy for communication. Keep in touch using short phone calls or texts to ensure whatever is essential gets discussed without ending an argument.
  • Use a mediator: You can bring in a neutral third-party to address concerns without fear of retaliation. Though this is not a long-term solution, it may help the uncommunicative noncustodial parent to feel more at ease in the initial days after a divorce.
  • Hire a legal advisor: If your ex-partner is completely resistant to meeting you, you may consult with a lawyer on how best to get in touch. They may be able to get through to him or her on your behalf as well.
  • Seek legal action: If all else fails, you can seek a court order from a judge to take action. This can be particularly helpful if the noncustodial parent does not follow through on the parenting time or child support payments they were mandated.

Wrapping Up

Dealing with an unresponsive co-parent can be a stressful ordeal, especially when your children rely on you for their comfort and care.

Understanding the responsibilities your ex-parent has as a noncustodial parent may be the first step in resolving the issue. You can then use your knowledge to initiate practical steps to effectively address their noncommunication.

If you’re in Toronto and in search of top legal advice, contact a qualified family lawyer to help resolve all your problems.

If you’re in Toronto and in search of top legal advice, contact a qualified family lawyer to help resolve all your problems.

Key takeaways:

▪ According to guidelines laid out under Ontario family law, effective communication between separated parents is imperative for the children’s well-being.
▪ Child custody may be joint, shared, split, or sole, with the latter resulting in one parent being the custodial parent and the other being a noncustodial parent.
▪ Custodial parents have the sole responsibility for making major decisions about the child while noncustodial parents maintain the right to parenting time.
▪ The rights and responsibilities of custodial and noncustodial parents differ in matters of child support, parental decisions, and visitation.
▪ Some practical steps to deal with a noncommunicative ex-partner are to maintain a neutral tone, create a co-parenting plan, avoid face-to-face contact, use a mediator, hire a legal advisor, or seek legal action.

Did You Know

Most abusers’ behaviour stems from feelings of privilege and entitlement and learned attitudes.

These can be extremely challenging to change. They must be deeply committed to making lasting changes to their behaviour. 

Published On:January 8, 2024