One of the most difficult things to deal with in family law is when one parent denies access to the other. This normally occurs in one of two ways: (1) simply not dropping off the children for access or not being around when the other parent arrives to pick up the children for access; and (2) “overholding” the children – i.e. returning the children late, sometimes by an entire night. I find that it’s particularly problematic around holidays and also where parents live in different cities.
From a legal point of view, the options for dealing with this are unfortunately limited:
1. Usually your lawyer can’t do anything immediately as access changeovers often occur on or near weekends. Even if your lawyer manages to reach the other parent’s lawyer, chances are the other parent is not just denying access, but also avoiding their lawyer’s telephone calls.
2. The police generally won’t help you. Normally their excuse will be that your agreement or court order isn’t specific enough. For instance, if you have access every second weekend, it won’t be clear whether this is your access weekend or not. But even if your agreement or court order is specific, it is rare that the police will want to get involved. They’ll probably tell you to speak with your lawyer.
It’s extremely frustrating to have time and plans with your children ruined without any notice. So, what can you do? Here are my suggestions:
1. Keep your cool. If this is the first time this has happened, there may well be legitimate reasons why the other parent is delayed.
2. If you have a chance, go to court on an urgent basis to get an order directing the police to enforce the visitation order. This is a good option for a longer access period – say, if the children were to spend their spring break with you.