Childrearing is challenging, and sometimes parents get so frustrated that they take questionable courses of action when dealing with their kids. Although it doesn't happen often, sometimes the custodial parent will send the child to the non-custodial parent for a court-ordered visitation and then refuse to resume his or her custodial responsibilities. Here are a few things you can do if you find yourself in this situation.
Investigate the Reason Why
Many times when a parent gives up on a child, there's been some type of breakdown in the relationship between them. For instance, the child entered a rebellious phase and the parent felt he or she can no longer effectively deal with the constant conflict.
Another common issue is the parent hits a rough patch in his or her life and trying to take care of a child at the same time is just too much. The person loses a loved one, for example, and enters a deep depression.
Take time to discuss the underlying issues driving the custodial parent's refusal to take the child back and see if there's something you can do to help the situation. Enrolling the child in counseling may help the kid overcome his or her own issues that were driving the child's rebellious behavior, for instance.
Petition the Court for Custody
If you're willing and able to take care of the child, then you should petition the court for custody as soon as possible. An argument could be made that since the custodial parent refuses to take the child back, he or she has essentially abandoned the kid. The court will usually consider this to be enough of a material change in circumstances to grant your request.
In addition to obtaining some legal rights you may not have had as the non-custodial parent, getting custody of the child will end any outstanding child support order. You could even turn around and ask the court to make the other parent pay child support once you are awarded custody. Another benefit to getting permanent custody is the other parent won't have the legal right to suddenly take the child away at a later date when the person decides he or she wants to be the custodial parent again.
Compel the Parent to Adhere to the Custody Decree
It may be possible to get a judge to compel the parent to accept responsibility for the child by taking the custodial parent to family court. Technically, the judge could hold the parent in contempt if the person doesn't provide an acceptable reason for not taking the child back and for continuing to refuse to adhere to the custody agreement.
However, it's highly unlikely a judge will actually do that. Instead, the judge may order you and the other parent into mediation to try and work out the issues stopping the custodial parent from reassuming custody of the child.
It's important to consider the feelings of the child before taking this course of action. Watching his or her parents argue over who is not going to take custody can leave the child feeling unwanted and may lead to long-term mental and emotional damage. Tread carefully in this area if you choose to go down this path.
A last option is to turn the child over to a willing relative or place the child in foster care if you're unwilling or unable to accept custody. Be aware that you will be required to pay child support to whoever ultimately gains custody of the child, even if the state child welfare agency becomes the custodial agent. It's a good idea to discuss the issue with a divorce or family law attorney who can provide sound advice that can help you make the best choice in your situation.