In the majority of situations, children of divorced parents do best when both parents remain actively involved but there are times when that isn’t advisable. Sometimes parenting time has to be restricted.
When Wendi and her husband divorced their two sons were aged about 13 and 16. For her, 50/50 parenting was never an option and her children had very limited time with their father. Here’s Wendi:
The kids are with me 100 percent of the time. They did visit their father, every other Sunday for a couple of hours.
During our divorce we had a custody evaluator who was a lawyer and a psychologist and they do the Rorschach Inkblot Test and they do all kinds of, “Finish the story,” and “What does this picture mean?” It was extensive personality testing on all four of us.
She did the parenting plan and said, “No overnights.” And she said maybe visitation could be lengthened, but to start with it was only two hours every other Sunday. My older kid was 16 or 17. As soon as he turned 18, he immediately stopped visitation. Then, I didn’t have to ever communicate with my ex.
We had a mediator post-divorce, which I think is really important for some people that can’t do co-parenting because of a mentally-ill spouse. All communication went through this person. So this person worked with the therapist to get a supervisor that would do supervised visitations for my younger son but he refused to do visitation and that was an issue.
My mother kept trying to get my older son to do visitation to protect the younger son, but it wasn’t healthy for him. Why should someone subject themselves when it’s not healthy? So that meant I got called into court a few times for blocking visitation, but the therapist or the court monitor would just say, “She didn’t, because we told her not to send him.” I didn’t get charged with anything, I just had a bunch of legal fees. We went to court, we were able to stop visitation, because my son would come back vomiting. I mean it was only two hours but he couldn’t handle it.
The Divorce Coach Says
Whenever there’s a need to limit the parenting time of one parent, it’s imperative for both parties to have competent legal counsel as well capable mental health professionals. Your child may also need their own representation. This is to ensure that everyone’s rights are protected and that the outcome is the best for the child.
I do want to stress that restricting parenting time comes from a need not a want or a desire. It can’t be motivated by dislike, vengeance or a difference in parenting style. If you and your ex are not able to agree on the division of parenting responsibilities then a judge will make the decision but the judge is bound by the provisions of the law in your jurisdiction and that mostly comes down to a question of the child’s safety and well-being. In my view, representing yourself in this situation is very risky.
A competent attorney will be able to tell you if you have a legal basis for pursuing restricted access.
You’ll also need to familiarize yourself with options for restricted access. At its simplest, it means limited parenting time. It can also mean supervised parenting, as Wendi mentions, where the time that a child and a parent spends together is supervised by a neutral third party. It could also mean required drug and alcohol testing and limitations on locations or even other people who can have contact with the child. Limiting decision-making scope is also an option. Having an attorney and a mental health professional with experience dealing with your specific concerns will help you identify the restrictions most appropriate for your situation.
Understand too that unless the other parent is willing to agree to the restrictions, then parenting evaluations in these situations are common and it is both parents who are evaluated. Whether the children are also interviewed will depend on your specific circumstances and practice in your jurisdiction.
Custody disputes are serious, usually expensive, battles not to be entered into for the wrong reasons. They are however sometimes very necessary and not optional. I believe your single most important responsibility as a parent is to keep your child safe.
Wendi Schuller is the author of The Woman’s Holistic Guide to Divorce. Read more about Wendi’s book and follow her blog at her website.
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