I am here to answer questions and provide the best possible answer based on my expertise, knowledge and experience. I will answer one to two questions per “Ask Rochelle…”. Please keep your questions coming at firstname.lastname@example.org and I will do my best to answer your questions. Thank you and always remember you matter!
*Please remember I am not an attorney nor do I act as an attorney regarding any legal issues. I am licensed in the state of Washington and adhere to their guidelines as far as state laws and mandates. I will answer questions based on the knowledge I have learned throughout the years and what works and doesn’t work in my practice.
Question: I haven’t seen my kids for 284 days even though there is a parenting plan in place and my ex-husband has been found in contempt twice by the courts. We have two children, 8 y.o. And 12 y.o. My ex-husband continues to use the children as a way to hurt me. With this Corona virus, he now uses this and the courts are closed. We have 50/50 joint custody and the children state “they hate me and never want to see me.” We had a counselor, however, he was making the situation worse (in my opinion) because he didn’t hold the father accountable for having the kids available for their appointments. I would show up and their father would always have an excuse. Now there is a shelter in place and the therapist is only doing video and my ex will not allow the children to engage in video. Any suggestions?
I want you to know you are not the only one going through this. There are so many parents going through this right now and have been suffering for years. There are support groups online you can join to help with this endeavor as you seek to see your children.
Your ex-husband has not been held accountable and will continue to act in this manner until he is held accountable AND even then he may justify in his mind he is doing the right thing. Without knowing all the details and how you got here today (there are so many potential factors), it is hard to provide guidance without the facts. However, generally speaking you have been an involved parent with no abuse history, substance abuse issues or mental health concerns (without taking you medications/treatment); this may be a case of parental alienation or something around those lines. Provided the information provided it is hard to tell. Parental Alienation, whether covert or overt, is hard to prove in court. Your odds are better finding an expert working with these type of cases and having the expert outline the recommendations. It has been a long time since you have seen your children and based on what the father has told them, your actions (or inactions), they may be mad or hurt and their guard is up. This is very frustrating as a targeted parent because you are stuck especially with the ‘shelter in place’ order.
Please note the shelter in place order does not prohibit parents from following the parenting plan. This is deemed essential and parents are following an order by the courts to see their children. 1. Reach out to the therapist you are working with and request that you see your children. 2. Are the courts open for contempt motions or motion to compel? If so, you may want to note this matter as URGENT and see if the judge will hear this matter because it is an emergency. If the courts deny to hear your motion now, keep the motion in place for when the courts re-open. 3. Follow the parenting plan and court orders. Call the children when you are supposed to, video chat with them per the orders and if there is residential time and no restrictions, request by email (preferably using an app such as talking parent, my family wizard, etc) to the father that you will be following the parenting plan and will pick the kids up at this time on this day. If he doesn’t respond or responds “we are busy” or “have plans” or whatever, politely state with no emotions, you will be picking up the children for your court ordered residential time, phone calls, etc. Remember to document everything (date, time, etc.) and show up or call for the times even if the father denies access or your children state they don’t want to see you.
Question: The custodial parent is denying my residential time with our children during this pandemic. I only live 10 minutes away and our family is healthy.
Ask Rochelle: The shelter in place order is for non essential people and businesses to not travel or be out other than going to the grocery store. The parenting plan set in place is considered ‘essential’ and there is a court order set in place. Both of you must follow the parenting plan unless both parents agree to deviate from the plan and are truly concerned about the children’s welfare because someone in the household is sick with the virus or other reasons. However, if it is your residential time, you are the parent to decide whether you feel the children are safe or not. With you living only ten minutes away there should be no reason not to see your children. Every state seems to have addressed this issue and some parents are getting in trouble for withholding the children for no reason. Look at your state laws and whether the courts are open. Best of luck to you.
Overall, do what you can to co-parent with the other parent. Hear their side and possibly they have some valid concerns. Communicate as business partners and keep the emotions out. Hopefully the other parent will listen to you as well. Talk to your children if they are old enough (over 12) and see (age appropriate) how they feel during this time. Open and honest communication is truly what is best for your children.
Send your questions to email@example.com. I look forward to your questions. Take Care of You, love yourself and others and forgive the ones who hold you from moving forward.
Rochelle Long, MA, LMHC