Gatekeeping the child from the other parent without any threatening reason is not only lawfully wrong but is also emotionally harmful to your child. Follow this article to know how keeping a child away from the other parent can backfire and why one should refrain from it.
A child deserves the love and affection of both parents. A couple’s separation or dispute should never affect the relationship a child has with both parents, but in some cases, one parent tries to bad-mouth the other parent in front of his child or tries to intentionally keep him away from the other parent due to personal grudge.
No parent is allowed to minimize the involvement of the other parent in the child’s life unless it has been specifically ordered by a court to do so. This happens in severe cases when the threat of abuse is there and is called protective gatekeeping, but doing it for any other reason can backfire in many ways.
Read this article to learn about the custody matters of a child after separation or divorce, how keeping a child away from the other parent can backfire, and what measures one should take to co-parent the child for a better future.
When two people part ways in a marriage and file for divorce, it is definitely due to a conflict. Couples with no children find it easier as only the two of them are involved in a marriage, and they end the relationship but when the involvement of children can make the separation complex as both the parents while having conflicts, have to co-parent the child. In many cases, one parent tries to keep the children away from the other parent. The reason for it can be a grudge of personal conflict or any sense of danger.
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The custody of the child after divorce/separation
The everyday care and nurturing of the child are called custody. It includes his financial and emotional responsibilities, including the residence and necessities. The child until a certain age (18) depends on his parents, but when the dispute among parents results in divorce or separation, both the parents’ lives get separated, so custody is granted to one of them. The child starts living with one of the parents.
This decision is made by the court after examining both parents. The court figures out the best place for the child to live considering many factors while the other is allowed to visit the child or hold other responsibilities. However, in some cases, the court allows both parents to have joint custody if they both mutually agree on it. Joint custody makes it easy for both parents to decide the suitable amount of time that a child can spend with each parent. They schedule it according to their child’s and their own ease.
A child’s custody is categorized into two types: Physical custody and legal custody.
The person who is made responsible for taking care of the child on a daily basis by living with them gets physical custody of the child. The other parent can visit his child according to the rule of law. Law decides these visitation rights depending on the case complexities.
Whereas legal custody refers to the right to make life decisions for the child. These decisions include his health and educational necessities. Legal custody either be sole or joint, depending on the verdict of the law. Sole legal custody arises when the other parent is considered not worthy of making wise decisions for the well-being of the child. At the same time, legal custody refers to the right to make life decisions for the child. These decisions include his health and educational necessities.
If the parent is not granted custody of the child, it can be due to several reasons, as the law finds only one of the parents to be capable of taking the responsibility of bringing up the child. In these cases, the other parent still has access to the child and can contact the child directly to meet to guard him. The child can also occasionally stay with the parent for a day or even plan a holiday together if they want.
These decisions can either take place with the mutual agreement of both parents depending on their personal preferences as to which parent is willing to take the custody and which one agreed to occasionally visit. In many cases, a mutual agreement seems impossible because both parents want custody, so in these situations, the court holds the authority to make the decision in the best interest of the child. It is done through an application submitted to the district or circuit court.
The court scrutinizes this case and makes the child’s welfare a top priority before coming to a verdict. One parent will have access to where time, location, and duration of the visit also needs to be decided by the court, while the other will have proper custodial responsibilities, but if the scrutinizing court finds it harmful for the child to even visit the other parent, he/she can also be denied complete access. If the parent or child insists on a meeting, the court can allow them to meet under the supervision of an adult.
Anyone who is looking to seek visitation allowance should get a legal advisor or lawyer who can guide him to acquire an access order from the court.
Consequences of keeping a child away from the other parent
Keeping a child away from the other parent is not legal or allowed until the court asks the other person to do it. It can backfire in a number of ways, some of which are listed below:
Diminishes the legal right of your child:
A child needs love and affection from both of his parents, and that is why it is important for him to stay connected to both of his parents. Most of the children prefer to stay connected to both parents even if the couple has filed for divorce. If you try to become a hindrance in this right of the child and try to keep him away from the other parent, it can affect their development. They will sooner or later get to know about their deprivation of rights, and this will create hatred in their heart.
If they are aware of this deprivation of their legal right, it can increase the risk of behavioral and academic problems in them. They can even develop trust issues with you and will find it difficult to form relationships in the future. However, if the child decides to stay away from the other parent, then it is another case and would require different treatment.
Makes the child depressive:
Children develop an association with their parents, and the sudden boundaries can make them anxious and angry. They will feel pressured to choose between two people after their family has collapsed. This can make them feel isolated and depressed, as children who do not have contact with both of their parents are likely to face mental health issues. They will feel as if they do not have anyone to turn to and might feel like a burden in the life of their parents.
Every child deserves to be brought up in a healthy and happy family, and if the family gets divided, the life of the child can have adverse effects after it. Hence, for the sake of your child’s mental stability, you should co-parent him in a healthy way so that he does not feel deprived or isolated.
Harm your custody rights:
The court finalizes the custody plans after completely examining all the aspects of the case as, in the eyes of the court, both the parents hold equal importance and should be responsible for providing their child the love he deserves. Hence, until the court finalizes its decision, none of the parents have the right to keep the child away from the other parent or breathe boundaries between the child and the other parent.
Moreover, the court can even ask you to attend co-parenting classes or reunification therapy sessions so that you learn how to maturely co-parent a child without depriving him of the love he needs. These classes will not only teach you how to bring up the child in a healthy manner but will also teach you to communicate effectively regarding the child’s well-being by keeping all the grudges aside. These classes should not be escaped or taken lightly as they can also weaken your case.
A court can disdain you:
If it gets proven in the court that you have tried to alienate the other parent from the child, you can face sanctions against you. There is a risk of contempt charges, custodial interference cases, or fines by the court as you have disobeyed the law. The court will consider you unworthy of the custodial right and might modify the decision which was in your favor before. In the eyes of the law, parental alienation is harmful to children, so it tries to avoid it.
Sense of guilt:
It will not only disturb your child’s mental peace but yours as well. You will be constantly worried about them reaching court or reaching the child by any means. You will never be able to co-parent the child and provide him the love of the other parent, so the guilt of depriving your child of his parents and a parent from his child will always blaze in your heart. You will never be able to make a sane decision for your child that involves the agreement of both parents.
Your child will constantly feel tickled about the absence of the other parent in his life, so seeing your child in this state will be hurtful for you as well. Therefore, you will not be able to build a good connection with your child or take care of him.
Can a parent keep the child away from claiming his child’s wish?
Where a parent does not refrain from the child, but the child himself wants to stay away from one of the parents. The reason behind it can be abuse, hatred, or neglect. However, there are some cases where parents sow hatred in the heart of the child towards the other parent so that he decides to stay away from the parent. This, under the law, is considered a crime and is called parental alienation. It causes intentional disturbance in the relationship of the parent and child, which otherwise could have been a source of happiness for both people.
Taking care of the child and nurturing him does not give you the right to use it in a negative manner, as children do not develop hatred towards their parents without reason. Most of the time, it has been inculcated in their minds which they realize when they grow mature. However, in custodial cases the court focuses on the well-being of the child, so if they find it in the best interest of the child to stay away from one parent because of his harmful behavior.
These verdicts do not pass merely on the basis of allegations, and the parent detecting a threat to the child is asked to notify child protective services and law institutions so that they can ponder over it.
What can you do if your child is being kept from you?
Suppose you are a parent who has been refrained from meeting your child by the other parent. You should be aware that you have a complete right to visit your child unless the court has passed an ordinance for you to stay away from the child. Therefore, you can take action against this injustice to protect your rights.
To take action and seek the court’s help, you can file a motion with the court to enforce the terms of the custody agreement. This will let the court examine the case, and a hearing session will be conducted. In the hearing sessions, both sides will have an opportunity to justify their side and present evidence if they want.
After completely inspecting the case, if the court finds that one of the parents is violating the custody agreement, they will pass the order of visitation allowance and renew the previous custody details. If there are any serious issues involved, the court will pass some serious orders so that neither of the parents has to face injustice. Moreover, the parent can be asked to pay your attorney’s fees and court costs.
If you are restricted from meeting your child on your terms due to court orders, you still will have your own rights and options available that you can seek to see your child. This process is not only complex and long but emotional as well. Hence, you should approach an experienced family law attorney for your case so that he can study your case very well and bring out the best solution for your problem. Under his guidance, you can go through the whole process.
How to mutually agree on a decision?
If the parents are having difficulty in making mutual decisions for the child, then a family mediator can help them decide things through conciliation. It is a mediation process in which the mediator is not biased and makes the decision in the best interest of the child and both parents. Through this process, one can discuss the scenario in detail and then let the mediator map out a suitable plan. This plan covers the following elements of the child’s life:
- Where will the child live
- How much time can each parent spend with the child
- How will both parents communicate to discuss the important matters of the child
- What will be each parent’s financial and emotional responsibility
Although the judge in the court does consider the concerns and rights of each parent and conducts proper hearing sessions, it still sometimes lacks the details each parent wants to convey. In some cases, some parents do not find it appropriate to reach out to the court for their personal family matters, so in these cases, mediation plays a vital role in solving disputes for future betterment after separation. Moreover, the mediation process is cheaper and quicker compared to the process of the court.
Mediation is not a causal process and includes a document that has the signatures of both parties showing agreement over a decision. However, as it is not an official legal document, it does not bind you with the risk of charges, but if one party disrespects it, the other party can bring it to court to strengthen the case.
Irrespective of the dispute, two people are bound to make certain co-operations in their lives for the welfare and betterment of their child as a child needs the presence of both parents in his life. Keeping all the grudges aside, two mature adults can make it possible to co-parent their child unless there is a serious issue of violence or abuse involved. The presence of the child does not refer to the physical presence but also to the emotional association the child has with both parents.
Therefore, co-parenting can help the parents develop a quality relationship with the child without any toxicity, which will contribute to their mental and physical well-being. This is not an easy procedure and requires equal participation of both parties. It can become difficult in many situations for one partner to sustain harmony with the other parent, so at times it leads to more resentment.
However, for the well-being of a child, one has to keep aside the past relationship one had with your ex-partner and work to create a new relationship that makes you see them only as the father of the child. This will eventually end up to the benefit of the child. There are some co-parenting tips that you can follow:
- Keep aside your personal grudge, as dragging it will become a barrier to your child’s needs.
- Understand that your child needs both of his parents, and do not ever make him choose between the two.
- Communicate with the other parent and make sure that this conversation does not include any hurtful message. It should only revolve around the child’s needs and betterment.
- If the conversation leads to any uncomfortable or stressful situation, keep your emotions in control by reminding yourself of the reason for this communication, i.e., your child.
- There will be times when you may need to work together; in those situations, you do not have to consider yourself as a separate entity of the child and work in collaboration.
- Make sure that the time each parent spends with the child is fruitful and free of any bitterness.
You should not let your marriage conflicts affect your child, so if you are divorced or separated, it is better to keep a healthy relationship with the other parent of your child. This is the only way you will make it easy for your child and yourself to move on in life easily. Most parents even try to transfer the hatred to their children without realizing its effects. It can keep your child away not only from the other parent but from you as well.
He will not turn to you if he ever misses his parents, so it is in the best interest of the child to accept that your divorce from your husband does not change his parental rights over his child. You should let your child talk about the other parent and meet him so that their communication remains positive and the child does not get deprived of the love from any of his parents.