Picture any school night at your home and your child telling you they don’t want to do their homework. If you’re like most parents, including myself, your response to such a declaration would include a reminder about what electronic device they lost and the directive to “sit down and get to work”.
It’s a pretty simple example of how children are not allowed to make decisions for themselves, right? What type of parent would allow their child to decide not to do homework or not take a medication they need? As parents, we follow principles such as education and proper medical care because they are important to our children’s welfare. We assume all good parents follow these principles.
So if you heard of a parent allowing a child to decide not to do homework or take medication, you would probably label that parent as a bad parent or even a parent who was neglecting their child. If you heard of a child who continued to refuse to do their homework after their parent told them to do it, you might make the assumption the parent had lost control of the child or the child was out of control. You might expect a parent in that type of situation to seek help to get the child back on track.
In a similar fashion, family courts follow the principle that it’s in the best interest of a child to have frequent and meaningful contact with both parents. The assumption is good parents will encourage and enforce that principle and parents who don’t may be considered bad parents or even parents that are neglecting their children.
So what do you do when your child tells you they don’t want to go to the other parents home or spend time with the other parent? Will your child’s statements or wishes be considered by the Court?
If your child is voicing hesitation or refusal to spend time with the other parent, you should encourage them to go, and absent evidence of safety concerns, you should tell them they have to go. You may even have to take away a privilege if they won’t go. If after those steps they continue to hesitate or refuse to go, you should seek therapeutic intervention for your child.
There can be multiple goals in therapy. The first and most obvious goal would be exploring the child’s statements to resolve the refusal or hesitation in spending time with the other parent.
But if you end up in family court, the therapist can be an important factor in voicing your child’s concerns, especially if there are allegations of abuse, mental illness or addictions. And finally, because you took steps to address the issue, seeking therapy for your child may help protect you from being accused of alienating your child from their other parent.