Family Ties: Forcing Visitation on a Child
Visitation: How do I Handle it When My Son Doesn’t Want to Visit with Me?
Q: I am recently divorced and have been awarded every other weekend visitation with my 7- year-old son, Aiden. Last weekend I went to pick Aiden up at my ex’s house, and when she opened the front door, Aiden was clinging to his mother’s leg crying and screaming, “I don’t wanna go with Daddy.”
Aiden’s mother just stood there almost grinning. I pleaded with Aiden to come with me, promising we would have a good time together. He just hung on to his mother, repeating, I don’t wanna go.” I didn’t know what to do, so I just left. What should I do if this happens the next time I go to pick Aiden up at my ex’s?
A: In an ideal divorce situation, both parents would encourage the children to value and spend time with the other parent. In this ideal scenario, your ex-wife would gently but firmly insist with Aiden that he go with you during the time that he is scheduled to be with you. But it sounds like you and your ex-wife do not have this type of supportive ex-spouse relationship.
Although you feel that it would have been cruel to force Aiden to go with you, keep in mind that it is in Aiden’s best interest for him to develop and maintain a relationship with you, and that can only happen by spending time together. Allowing Aiden to stay with his mother during your scheduled time teaches him that he can manipulate you and that he can control when he sees you. And, giving in to Aiden’s demand that he not go with you deprives him of time with you (as well as deprives you of time with your son).
If Aiden resists going with you again, calmly say to him, Aiden, this weekend is for you and me to spend time together. You can either let go of your mother and come with me, or I will pick you up and take you to the car with me.” If Aiden does not willingly come, pick him up, using mild force if you need to in order to free his grip from his mother, but DO NOT hurt him (or his mother) in any way in the process. Once Aiden is with you in the car, refocus by talking about what you are going to do that weekend.
By the way, a divorced friend of mine described a similar scenario, and he had to physically remove his child from his mother. When my friend and his son started driving away in the car, his son turned to him and said, Can we go to the movies tonight Dad?” Another acquaintance experienced a situation similar to yours and he chose to call the Sheriff’s office to ask for a Sheriff escort to require his ex-wife to comply with the visitation orders in their divorce agreement.