I was recently reminded about a common problem in children cases that is not often written about.  What do you do if your child does not want to spend time with the other parent following a separation?

The Courts sometimes can look at this in very much black and white terms.  When this issue arises it isn’t uncommon to hear a judge say to parents who are struggling to get their child to go with the other parent; “what would you do if your child did not want to go to school?”  It is a fair question to ask, but a hard one to answer.

However, luckily Merseyside judges can take this one step further in that they are able to work with parents to get to the root cause of why the child doesn’t want to go to contact.  Are they attached to one parent more so than the other?  Is the child aware of any hostility between the parents?  Do the parents have the same parenting styles?  These are just a few questions I often will hear the courts ask.  It is important that parents, whenever possible, try to resolve these issues before going through the courts.

One thing I have seen help situations like these is positive re-enforcement; “you are going to have a lovely time with daddy today, he’s got lots of fun things planned for you to do together”.  Contact is meant to be enjoyable for both child and parent.

Also parents should promote each other to their children in a positive light.  Children are like sponges, they are able to pick up on hostility between parents and this can be damaging to a child. It impacts on their emotional wellbeing and can ultimately result in the creation of fear and a reluctance to attend contact.

Differences in parenting style is also another issue.  It is important that parents are working from the same page. This includes providing structure and routines for children.  One parent may be very relaxed and another quite strict in comparison. This can present a confusing message to children.

A modern invention used to tackle problems such as this is the “Parenting Agreement”.  This is a document which sets out all those little things that go into parenting of children. It can set out the times that the child will spend with each of its parents. It can set out how important decisions will be made in respect of the child. Differing parenting styles can be integrated so the child is not confused.

These agreements can be made on an informal basis or can be drawn up by a family solicitor. They can even be approved by the Court, making them legally enforceable. The aim of such a document is to try to get parents working together and ensure that contact is enjoyable.

Darren White

Maxwell Hodge Solicitors