As a parent, your heart breaks when you see your child upset and suffering — and that makes your ex-spouse’s inability to keep up with their visitation schedule distressing.
When your ex makes promises they don’t keep, and your child has questions, what you say and do can have major consequences for the future.
Don’t disparage your co-parent to your child — even if they deserve it
Whether this is the first time your co-parent has failed to show up for visitation or the fifth time, keep your anger and frustration in check in front of your child.
If you pop off and tell your child the truth (that their other parent is irresponsible and self-centered), you run the risk of being accused of fostering parental alienation. That could ultimately backfire on you in court to the point that a judge could give custody to your ex and put you on a visitation schedule instead.
Just the same, you don’t want to lie. A “neutral truth” is usually the best option. You can say things like, “I don’t know. We’ll have to wait until we hear from Dad,” or “I’m sure Mom will explain the situation when we hear from her.”
Document every missed visit and — take action in court
If this is a chronic problem, you need to start keeping a record of things like:
- All sudden cancelations (including the reason your ex gives — if any)
- Every visitation where your ex simply doesn’t show up
- Any promises your ex made to your child that they didn’t keep
- All the times your ex shows up late for visitation or returns your child early
Keeping these kind of records can ultimately help support your case if you need to go back to court. If your ex is taking visitation for granted, you have every right to ask the court to modify your parenting plan and make some changes — and that’s the best way to protect your child from further emotional harm.