“But I Don’t Want to Go!”

Divorce is difficult. Not just for the couple that is ending their relationship, but for children as well. When a divorce happens, it happens to the whole family.

It is so important to pay attention to and reassure your child that you both still love them and that you will always love them. It’s very easy for a child to mistakenly believe that the breakdown of the family unit is somehow their fault. Spending as much time with your child is perhaps the best way to express and reaffirm that love.

But what if the child doesn’t want to spend time with you?

When you separated, the two of you created and put into action the best parenting schedule you could. Everyone was in agreement and you both had shared access to your child.

  • Either from the outset or further down the road, children may choose not to spend time with the other parent. This may occur for a variety of reasons. Among them:The custodial parent may be fomenting parental alienation where the child begins to believe that the bad things being said about the other parent are true. This is a more serious issue and the topic of another one of our articles.
  • The child is simply tired of shuttling from one parent’s home to the other (extracurricular activities may be impacted, their access to friends may be limited, etc.)
  • The age of the child
  • The child feels resentful of the other parent, either because of personality differences or a sense that they (whether true or not) were the one that caused the marriage to end
  • The child may feel a sense of obligation to the custodial parent and perceive that visits to the other parent would somehow be disloyal

As the custodial parent you will be placed in the middle,  but it is important that you discuss how the child is feeling and act accordingly. There may be issues raised that, when revealed, are quite simple to remedy.

In general, there is unanimity amongst psychologists that the child should not be able to opt out of visitations with either parent. They contend that spending quality time with both parents on a regular basis will help to cultivate healthier relationships between them. That said, of course, you don’t want to pressure the child into doing something that is obviously distressing to them.

If there is an issue that was provoked by your ex-spouse, you will both need to have a comprehensive discussion to try and resolve the issue(s) and seek to modify or stop the upsetting behaviour for the sake of the child.

For issues that seem to be beyond your scope, you may wish to enlist the assistance of a family therapist or psychologist. Turning to a professional can help you eliminate the source(s) of conflict and/or help your child develop more suitable coping skills.

If, however, you suspect abuse of any kind, abandonment or substance issues, contact your divorce lawyer immediately to determine your immediate legal recourse.