What happens after parenting orders are made?

Posted on 11 March 2014

You have either negotiated an agreement for parenting of your children or you have come to the end of the long road of litigation and you now have legally binding parenting orders…PHEW you made it; everything will be fine now and things will settle down, right?

Well, in most cases everything will now go along smoothly and things can start to get back to normal. However, for some people, you may find an unlikely obstacle…your children do not want to co-operate with the arrangement put in place.

If your child says to you “I am not going” or hides in their room and refuses to come out when they are due to spend time with the other parent, you are not alone. This does happen for a number of parents.

The first thing to do is to think carefully about what may be causing the behaviour – it may not always be what you think is the obvious reason …the other parent.

Some tips to assist you in making the transition better and easier for your children are:

  • Talk to the children about why they do not want to visit with their other parent. From our experience, in most circumstances the reasons for not wanting to go are just some form of general annoyance with the other parent or anger about the separation. This may not be good news, but it isn't bad news either; you have to remember that it will pass. Subject to any disclosures about family violence (see below), assure them that the other parent loves them and that explain that they will have fun and enjoy their special time with the other parent. It may be useful to also encourage the child to talk to the other parent about their complaint or feelings – remember that this is a normal part of a parent – child relationship.
  • If there is no history of family violence, having a discussion with your ex to present a united front to your children at the time of changeover is crucial. If you start suggesting the cancellation of the time “…maybe just this time…” your children will know that there is flexibility in the situation – a united front is important to demonstrate to your children that there is no question about what is happening (see Getting Your Kids to Go on Visitation” DeTorres and DeGeorge (February 12, 2014) on www.danddfamilylaw.com).
  • Can you change something to make it easier? Change the changeover location so that you drop off your children to the other parent’s residence rather than them having to leave their home with the other parent? Is another time more suitable for your child? (see Getting Your Kids to Go on Visitation” DeTorres and DeGeorge (February 12, 2014) on www.danddfamilylaw.com) Even ask your children if there is a way to make it easier for them; they may have some insightful and easy options for you and your ex.
  • Do not discuss any stressful matters with your ex at the time they are collecting the children. Leave any discussions about child support, finances, scheduling, or any other matters that may cause tension to another time when the children are not around.
  • If all else fails, you may want to consult a child psychology professional for some tips and techniques or organise family therapy with your ex and the children to speak to a professional together as a family to work through the issues and give your children an opportunity and safe environment to discuss their feelings and work together on options that will work for everyone. There are many organizations that can assist with this including Family Relationships Centres.

There are many reasons children ‘play up’ and try to assert control over situations, especially after the uncertainty they experience during your separation. Remember that there are many feelings that your children experience during the separation of their parents. These feelings can include sadness, anger, confusion, relief, worry and guilt. It may take time for your children to adjust to their new circumstances. Whilst in no way should you discount any matters that your child may raise in relation to violence or other behavior by the other parent that may be causing the refusal to spend time with them, it is important to realise that if there is no reason for their behavior other than “I don’t want to” then do not feel guilty about enforcing the routine. It is no different that ensuring your children go to school when they don’t want to or feeding them healthy food even if they don’t want it. Remember that it is in the children’s best interest to have a meaningful relationship with both parents, subject of course to there being no issues of family violence.

If you are experiencing difficulties with your parenting arrangement, whether or not orders have been made, please contact us for a confidential discussion about your options.

Geovanna Baute, 
Family Law Practice Manager 
Dooley & Associates Solicitors