Sticking to a consistent parenting time schedule may take a lot of effort on your part, but experts agree that having a predictable routine helps children feel more secure and confident. At some point, however, almost every child will put up a fuss when they have to pack up and shift to their other parent’s home. It is natural for a parent to feel conflicted in this situation. On one hand, you hate to do anything that creates undue stress for your child. On the other hand, if you do not comply with your parenting time order, you could be penalized by the court.
So, what should you do if your child strongly objects to going with their other parent when the parenting time schedule calls for it? There are several factors to consider, including the law, the age of the child and the behavior of the co-parent.
The law. When you have a court-approved parenting plan, you must make a child available to the other parent as scheduled and encourage the child to go. If your co-parent believes you are refusing to comply with the plan, they can file a court petition for the enforcement of allocated parenting time (750 ILCS 5/607.5). In addition to being required to give “make-up time” to your co-parent, you could be ordered to participate in counseling at your own expense, pay your co-parent’s legal and other expenses, and/or pay a fine to the court.
The age of the child. Assuming there is no issue with the other parent’s behavior toward the children, you need to, at a minimum, arrange for the children to be at the planned pick-up location at the planned time and have them packed and ready to go. With younger children, you generally just need to make them go with their other parent as the visitation schedule requires. You, as the parent, need to maintain control of the situation.
With older children, the court will at least consider the wishes of the child when making parenting time decisions. However, given the typical maturity of tweens and younger teens, the court will typically place a higher importance of maintaining the child-parent relationship than on the child’s preferences.
With 16- and 17-year-olds, the issue becomes more complicated. All you can do is encourage them to cooperate; you cannot physically force them. When older teens object to a whole week or whole weekend away from their friends and usual activities, talk to the child and your co-parent about non-overnight options for visitation that are less disruptive to a child’s usual activities.
The behavior of the other parent. Sometimes children are uncomfortable spending time at their other parent’s house for valid reasons. Minor issues--such as cleanliness of the home, provision of food, manner of discipline, or even the presence of a new romantic partner during visitation--may simply be discussed with your co-parent.
More serious issues may need to be brought to the attention of the court. For example, maybe the other parent has become abusive or neglectful, or perhaps the children are being exposed to non-relatives who are drinking excessively, doing illegal drugs, or exhibiting other inappropriate behavior in front of the children. If you believe your child’s physical, mental, moral, or emotional health is being impaired by the time they spend with their other parent, you can petition the court to restrict their parenting time (750 ILCS 5/603.10). The court will hear evidence and enter orders as necessary to protect the child.
Children of any age can have objections to the parenting time schedule for a variety of reasons. If you think their reasons are valid, and you want to modify the existing parenting time schedule despite the co-parent’s objections, consult a DuPage County parenting time attorney to discuss the appropriate steps to take. Call Mevorah Law Offices LLC at 630-932-9100 for a free consultation.
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