The problems associated with intentional behavior attempting to estrange the child or bar a parent from access to the child are real.

This is lack of cooperation run amok.  If you are prevented from having contact with your child, it may take the intervention of a court to establish an enforceable schedule of access to the child. Most states recognize the benefits of a specific and regular schedule of parenting time between the child and both parents.

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Even when there is concern about adequate supervision or a suitable environment for contact between the child and a parent, the court will attempt to set up contact in a manner that protects the safety and security of the child rather than prohibiting contact. Cutting off contact is comparable to termination of parental rights and is only ordered as a last resort.

If you are experiencing estrangement, consider getting help from the court to re-establish the parent-child relationship:

● A specific and detailed parenting schedule, including which parent is responsible for producing the child for exchanges, which parent is responsible for producing the child at the end of parenting time, and terms that require the custodial parent to agree to reasonable requests to rescheduling parenting time.

● Monitored exchanges of the child, preferably with an intermediary who can calm the child between drop off and pick-up. If possible, arrange for documentation of the exchanges that can be made available as evidence in court.

● Use a parenting coordinator, who serves as the facilitator to support both parents in honoring the parenting schedule in a child focused manner. A parenting coordinator addresses issues in real time, whereas action in the court general takes place after the fact and is not as timely.

● Arbitration, as allowed by applicable law, is a process for enforcing parenting time in closer proximity to the infringement than is likely in traditional litigation.

● Counseling between the target parent and the child can help to re-establish or improve the parent child relationship. Counseling for the parent engaging in estrangement may be in order as well to help that parent understand the value of both parents’ roles in raising the child.

● A surety bond posted with the court can encourage compliance with the court-ordered schedule. A bond can be forfeited to cover the expenses of the target parent upon on a finding by the court that withholding access was unreasonable under the circumstances.

If you are a targeted parent avoid the temptation to retaliate, seek revenge, or dominate the other parent. Commit to making decisions about contact and interaction with the coParent that are based on what is best for the child.


About Kathleen Bird

Kathleen Bird, JD is a mediator, parent educator, former judge, and family lawyer. Her book, Self-Centered Co-Parenting, is the result of her experience working with thousands of frustrated parents to find a self-empowering method for quality parenting and decision-making.