What to Do When Your Child Refuses to See the Other Parent

5 November 2021
 Categories: Law, Blog


Children refuse to see a parent for a number of reasons, and when a divorcing couple is caught up in a court case or custody dispute, having the child suddenly say they don't want to see one of the parents anymore can make things much more complicated. In Australia, courts don't have to listen to people under the age of 18, but they may choose to take the child's claims into account depending on the maturity level of the child – not the age, but the maturity level, and it is possible for the court to actually follow the child's wishes. If your child has started saying they no longer want to see the other parent, you've got to find out why and take appropriate action.

Do Try to Find out Why

Don't dismiss your child's wish to avoid the other parent as nonsense. The child may have real concerns (such as fearing the other parent will kidnap them, or the child is truly disgusted by the other parent's actions during the divorce proceedings), and as one of that child's parents, you should do your best to work with the child rather than assuming they're just being silly.

Engage Government or Community Support Systems

The Australian government has some support resources for children; as much as the government wants to ensure children can see both parents, it realises that safety is a concern for many. If the reason for not seeing a parent involves the child's safety (or even sense of safety), these resources may help the child be taken seriously in court. There are also dispute resolution services and community support organisations that help children deal with the effects of the divorce. These organisations may be able to help the child reconcile their wishes with reality; for example, if the child is merely angry that the parents have divorced, that's not really a reason to stop seeing one parent, and these organisations can help the child process that anger in a more constructive way.

Let the Child Speak With Your Lawyer

Because the court will rely on rather subjective issues to determine whether the child's wishes should be granted, the child will need to be able to present their reasoning in a calm, mature way. Sometimes this isn't possible because the reason for not seeing the parent is itself not that mature. But other times, the problem lies in the child just not knowing how to present their case that well. Let the child talk this over with your lawyer. The lawyer can help them put their plea together in a straightforward way or figure out if the child's reasoning is misguided.

Contact a local family lawyer to get more advice.