As the children of separated parents become older, they might express that they do not want to spend time with one of their parents. This, of course, causes trouble for the relationship between the child and parent, as well as the relationship between the parents. In fact, if the issue remains unresolved, then either a parent and child may become estranged from one another, or litigation may occur. And so, the situation should be taken seriously, and properly addressed.

The first step is to have a discussion with the child about the reasons for his or her not wanting to spend time with the parent.  For example, Is the child bored? Does the child miss friends or activities while spending time with one parent? Is there some problem with the relationship between this parent and child? Getting to the root of the problem let’s us see what needs to be addressed.

Children, especially young children, take emotional cues from their parents or other caregivers. So, often, one parent can encourage a visit to occur with the other parent by speaking favorably of the time that the child gets to spend with the other parent. For example, the first parent might talk about the visits with the other parent being like vacations or adventures for the child.

But, what if the problem is that one parent is discouraging a child from visiting, or having a close relationship with, the child’s other parent? This is more problematic, and may result in Parental Alienation Syndrome. (Parental alienation is a set of strategies that a parent uses to foster a child’s rejection of the other parent. Parental alienation syndrome develops in children who come to hate, fear, and reject the targeted parent as someone unworthy of having a relationship with them). [1] If you believe that this may be occurring, then it is important to speak with a lawyer who has experience handling these cases. Inaction and delay, often worsens the problem. I have written about this here.

If the other parent is simply not complying with the possession order, perhaps by failing to deliver the children, or claiming that s/he “cannot get them to go” with the other parent, then judicial enforcement of that order should be considered.[2] When courts make orders, they expect them to be followed. An Enforcement Action is a request that the court take steps, such as holding someone in contempt of court, for not following the court’s order. It tends to be a good motivator for compliance.

If the case progresses to litigation, such as an Enforcement action, it is important to note that the states take different approaches to this circumstance. Accordingly, it is important to consult with an attorney licensed in the jurisdiction where you are located. Since I am licensed to practice law in Texas, I am familiar with the way that these cases are handled by Texas courts.

Texas courts, in my experience, have become less tolerant of parents who can get a child to attend school, team practices, and other events, but who claim to not be able to get a child to visit with the other parent. The courts’ attitude is that the child is simply not in control. If one parent cannot, or will not, follow the court’s order, then there will be some consequences imposed.

Children deserve to have a happy and healthy relationship with both parents. Courts have tools at their disposal to make the visits between parent and child happen. Until next time, keep loving your kids!


[1] A good discussion of this condition can be found here, which is the source of the definition sed in this post:,having%20a%20relationship%20with%20them.

[2] Unfortunately, some people are “high conflict;” they like the adrenaline rush that comes from the fight. I have written about dealing with them here and also, here.

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