SHE / HE’S NOT LETTING ME SEE THE KIDS – WHAT DO I DO?
Unfortunately, it’s not uncommon for one parent to withhold children from another parent. Sometimes this is done for sound, child-focussed reasons, but often, it is done in a self-serving fashion. One example of what we would describe as a ‘self-serving’ withholding of children, and one which we regrettably see quite often, is where a parent withholds children with a view to extracting more child support from the other parent.
So what do you do, and what do you not do when a parent is withholding children?
- DO obtain legal advice as quickly as possible. It might cost you a few bucks, but a little advice from someone with experience resolving parenting disputes goes a long way. Some firms also offer very inexpensive initial consultations. Shop around – you might be surprised.
- DON’T engage in ‘text message or e-mail wars’, issue threats, try to go ‘tit for tat’, or carry on, especially in the children’s presence. Doing so might make you feel better at the time, but it’s only going to hurt your chances of reuniting with the children in a timely fashion.
- DO try to communicate with the other parent in relation to the issue in a business-like manner. Pretend the other parent is a business partner, or your boss, when you communicate with them. Be polite, take the high ground and try to resolve the matter in an amicable fashion.
- DON’T take unilateral action to try to recover the children without first obtaining legal advice. For instance, unless you’ve spoken to a lawyer first, don’t attend the children’s school early to collect the children in order to prevent the other parent from withholding them.
- DO consider initiating mediation to resolve the issue. Unless recovery of the children is urgent (because not recovering them would expose them to a risk of harm for instance), if the parent withholding the children continues refusing to facilitate contact, before you start child custody proceedings, you must attend mediation. Mediation services like Centacare and Relationships Australia offer low fee mediations – get the ball rolling early.
This article was published by Kyle Barram on 2 September 2016. Kyle is a family law solicitor based in Townsville.