Forceful Parenting: do I have to force my child to go to contact with the other parent?

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One of the most common questions we are asked is whether, if a child does not want to have contact with a parent, you have to “force them.” Whilst in some cases this is inherently difficult, the short answer is that you do have to do everything in your power to ensure that the child spends time with the other parent. The best way to think of this is to consider what you have to do to get an unwilling child to the dentist.

The court has made it clear that both parent’s job is “exercising all their parental skills, techniques and stratagems – which may include use of both the carrot and the stick and, in the case of the older child, reason and argument – to get the child to do what it does not want to do.

What do I do when my child refuses to attend contact with the other parent?

In the words of the President of the Family Division, parents may have to persuade children to have contact with a parent “by argument, persuasion, cajolement, blandishments, inducements, sanctions (for example, ‘grounding’ or the confiscation of mobile phones, computers or other electronic equipment) or threats falling short of brute force, or by a combination of them, does their level best to ensure compliance.” The court is very strong on the lengths a parent needs to go to demonstrate that they have tried their utmost to encourage their child to attend.

If, despite all the above herculean efforts, you are still faced with an upset and unwilling child, it is worth considering why you have reached the impasse. To get to the bottom of why a child doesn’t want to spend time with a parent, you may wish to explore the issues with the school or, if agreed by both parents, through family mediation and where appropriate Child Included Mediation. If there is a reason why a child is refusing to see a parent, a Child Mediator will be able to give careful consideration to what, if any, work should and can be done to improve the relationship.

The courts are keen, particularly where there is a court order in place, to ensure both parents are doing everything they can to promote a positive relationship with the other parent where it is safe to do so. It is worth taking advice from a solicitor on the alternative dispute resolution means available to you and the family to avoid either party seeking to return the matter to court. Ultimately an application may need to be made to vary an order if there are concerns that your child’s reluctance may lead to an enforcement application (where one parent applies to enforce the order against the other by whatever means the court sees fit). In those circumstances, again it is key to speak to a solicitor and discuss whether a variation to the order can be agreed.

Here to Help

If you are in need of advice for any family matter, please get in contact with Kerrie Hall, Senior Solicitor specialising in Family Law.

Please note the contents of this blog are given for information only and must not be relied upon. Legal advice should always be sought in relation to specific circumstances.