Frustrating contact?



Standard contact arrangements often state that telephonic or Skype contact between the children and the other parent will occur on set days and times. The reasons to do so include that the children need a set routine and that both homes can be arranged around these times.

Remember that the other parent is often part of a blended family as well, and that it is equally important for that household to have a routine. Depending on the age of the children, a good idea is to have a schedule on the fridge. The schedule also includes weekends and holiday dates to the other parent.

When no times are set, the children have no idea when they will be speaking to or spending time with the other parent - this often creates confusion for the children and puts a strain on the relationship between the parent with primary residency and the children. It is normally stated in settlements that telephonic/Skype contact should have due regard to any educational, cultural or recreational activities the children participate in. This sounds perfect in theory, but in practice, this arrangement is often abused.

"The Children's Act, Section 35 - Refusal of access or refusal to exercise parental responsibilities and Rights
(1) Any person having care or custody of a child who, contrary to an order of any court or to a parental responsibilities and rights agreement that has taken effect as contemplated in section 22 (4), refuses another person who has access to that child or who holds parental responsibilities and rights in respect of that child in terms of that order or agreement to exercise such access or such responsibilities and rights or who prevents that person from exercising such access or such responsibilities and rights is guilty of an offence and liable on conviction to a fine or to imprisonment for a period not exceeding one year." (Read more here)

We often hear the following statements from the parent with primary care:

  • "Oh I'm sorry, the children have a test and they need to study"
  • "We got stuck in traffic and could not get home in time for the phone call"
  • "We walked the dog and totally forgot about the call time"
  • "Our internet connection is down, you cannot Skype now"

Although the above statements are sometimes accurate and acceptable, they are often used to frustrate contact. Remember that, as the parent with primary custody, it is your duty (as in parental responsibility) to assist your children to exercise their right to have a relationship with the other parent.

When abused, it often creates the following:

  • Long-term damage to your children (this is a topic on its own).
  • The other parent becomes frustrated and you will receive nasty emails and court orders.
  • Although not related to contact, the other parent might stop paying maintenance - now both parents are in contempt of a court order.

Parents will end up in a constant battle, spending thousands on more court dates. How is this environment healthy for your children, or for yourself? Is it not a better option to rather invest all the money spent on court dates in an investment account for the children?

Never forget that you got divorced from the other parent, your children did not. Never forget why contact between the children and both parents are so important to your children - it has absolutely nothing to do with your feelings towards the other parent.

Posted by CoParenting

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