Barbara J. Katzenberg, Attorney at Law
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Adjusting to a visitation plan difficult for children and parent

Many Massachusetts parents who get divorced draft a parenting plan to schedule visitation in a way that would allow the non-custodial parent adequate time with his or her children in order to maintain a loving relationship. However, it is not uncommon for a non-custodial parent to move on and ignore scheduled visitation. When there are very young children involved and one parent remains absent, it may jeopardize his or her parental relationship.

An example is one mother who described her dilemma. She became separated from her child's father when her daughter was two years old, and her former husband had had no contact with the child since that separation. The mother met somebody else and is now engaged to that person. After two years of absence, her ex-husband wants to see his daughter who is now four years old. In addition to the woman's fiancé not wanting her former husband to come to their home, the child may regard the father as a stranger.

Regardless of the initial parenting plan specified, the mother will now have to act in the best interest of her child. She may explain to the father that he will have to rebuild a relationship with their daughter, and the best way to do this would be to spend short periods of time with her at an agreed-upon location. It will not be unreasonable to insist on visits that last an hour at a time to allow the child to get reacquainted with him. If the visits don't adversely affect the child, the visitations could eventually escalate to day-long visits.

Even if the mother feels unhappy about the father's sudden interest in his daughter, she may want to keep in mind that every child should have the opportunity to have a loving relationship with both parents. If the communication between the parents is strained, it may be wise to consult with a family law professional who can facilitate mediation to resolve the issues. An experienced child custody attorney can also assist Massachusetts parents with drawing up a new visitation and parenting plan that will protect the interests of the child.

Source: newsobserver.com, "Ex-etiquette: Interest in daughter may be tied to mom's fiance", Jann Blackstone, Dec. 16, 2014

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