How to deal with a child not wanting to spend time with the other parent is a difficult one for parents who are separated.
A child’s reluctance to spend time with the other parent can have many different causes.
The Court’s View
The Court’s focus however is that it is in the child’s best interests to have a meaningful relationship with both parents. This is as long as this does not place a child in harm’s way.
The Court has a wide authority to do whatever it believes appropriate to ensure that there is a relationship with the other parent. Courts have even taken the step of removing children from parents and placing them in the other parent’s care to protect that relationship. This can occur even where the child has a history of refusing to spend time with the other parent. When making those difficult decisions the Court takes into account:
- the age of the child,
- the child’s maturity,
- what influence a parent may have had over the child in forming the opinion that they don’t want to spend time with the other parent; and
- the reports of psychologists and other professionals as to why the child is reluctant to spend time with the other parent.
Alienation and Enmeshment
Extreme cases of opposition to spending time with the other parent may involve alienation or enmeshment but these are not common.
Alienation is when a child strongly opposes spending time with the other parent, that they hate or fear them, or are extremely angry with the other parent.
Enmeshment is where a child and a parent become so close to each other that their identities become one, they have the same opinions and views. In these extreme, and difficult cases, the Courts can make orders which can involve counselling and other therapy to try and repair the child’s relationship with the other parent.
A Parent’s Responsibility
In all cases, the Court expects parents to comply with orders made for children to spend time with the other parent. A parent is expected to use their parental authority to ensure that a child spends time with the other parent if that time is ordered. The Court takes the view that a child does not decide whether they attend school or go to the doctor. These are parental decisions that a child must comply with. Time with the other parent is treated in the same manner.
It is important that all parents remember that a Court will have as its focus, that it is in the child’s best interests to have a meaningful relationship with both parents as they grow up.