I used to have nightmares thinking about the question “what happens if my ex won’t let me see my kids?” It does not matter how ironclad any agreement with an ex is. If they want to play nasty, you are left with few appealing options.
So what steps should you take when an ex won’t let me see my kids? If you have the legal right to see your kids DO NOT LET YOUR EX STOP YOU UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCE. One important fact to remember is if you are worried about negative impacts on your kids in exercising your right to see them, that is the fault of the ex withholding them from you. Do not get caught playing the game of “maybe it will be easier on them if I just back down.” My experience is that unless a crime is being committed, the police cannot help you much. Instead, document everything and get to court IMMEDIATELY, to affirm and exercise your rights. Your ex is not doing you a “favor” by letting you see your kids, it is your right!!
Now after that opening salvo let me stress I am not a lawyer and you should not take what I say as legal advice. I am speaking as a father of two sons who has spent plenty of time dealing with an ex. There are plenty of blog posts on this topic from law firms that will give you legal advice. That is not the purpose of this post.
There are probably two camps of dads out there that are having issues with an ex not letting them see their kids:
- Those that have the legal right to do so but are being blocked by an ex
- Those that do not have the legal right to do so and want to get that right
The path you take varies can greatly depending on which of these camps you fall into. I won’t cover the second one because I’m in no position legally to do so. In either event, work hard and do the right things to see your kids.
I’m guessing I was like you. I stayed with an ex because I told myself it was better for the kids. A happy, safe, nurturing, and fulfilling life is what is best for your kids. That should be the goal no matter what the situation is between the parents.
The problem of course lies when your ex does not see it that way. Make sure YOU see it that way since YOU are the only one you are in control of.
How to Take Action Against An Ex That Wont Let You See Your Kids
Let’s start with some general rules of thumb for all dads. You are just as much of a parent to your kids as your ex. Do not let your ex convince you that she is more of a parent or the “primary” parent.
This is a good point to stop and say that I will be speaking about a situation where the parents are a man and a woman. I would love to delve into issues like these with same-sex couples but I have no experience with that so I am in no position to try and offer advice.
Your ex is most likely your ex because you had some type of falling out. You are no longer in a relationship where you are “together”.
That means that in the best case you co-exist as people and you work hard to co-parent together. If you fall in that camp….you probably are not reading this!
If you and your ex do not get along that is just something to deal with. The real issue is when that bleeds into your co-parenting.
Three things I would always stress:
- NEVER take the bait
- NEVER start an argument
- ALWAYS document everything
While it is sad that people use their kids as leverage against an ex to get what they want, it happens (probably to you if you are reading this). It is easy to take the bait and “hit back” when that happens. DON’T!
Nothing good is going to come of this for you or your kids. She WANTS you to take the bait. Remain calm, logical, and stick to the facts.
You will get angry. You will get frustrated. Do not let her see that. There is nothing to gain in doing this. Long story short, do not start arguments and fights-it is a no-win situation for you.
Most importantly, keep a record of everything. One of my favorites is Talking Parents. It streamlines communications, keeps an unalterable record, and keeps both parties “on their toes” helping to nudge them in the direction of doing the right thing for their kids.
If not that way then do it on your phone, send texts or e-mails to yourself or just write it down but keep track. This may not amount to anything but better safe than sorry.
In the heat of a battle of trying to see your kids, you may not remember everything that was said and done correctly. Take some time each day to keep track of what has happened.
If you have a legal right to see your kids
Sounds simple enough, you have the right to see your kids so see them. What if your ex will not give them to you?
It is unfortunate that there is no “good” answer to this. Let’s say it is your day to pick up the kids and your ex says “you cannot have them.” What are your options:
- Go to her house and demand to have them
- Call the cops and have them meet your there to get your kids
- Secretly take your kids when they are out with her
Any of these sound “good”? I did not think so. The fact of the matter is, you both enter into an agreement (whether written, verbal, or simply implied) as co-parents of your kids.
You could just as easily do the same to her: she asks for the kids and you say no. The point is, co-parenting only “works” when both parents can act reasonably and rationally. If you are reading this, then that is not what is happening in your world.
If you have one dispute about your co-parenting schedule, maybe just let that pass. If it becomes a pattern of behavior, take action sooner rather than later.
Try a Professional Third Party
I tried this route myself but never had a lot of luck. It is possible that your ex has a valid concern. Maybe it’s something you’re not comfortable hearing but that you need to address.
So before we start ramping up this battle, maybe start with a qualified third party to discuss some of these issues. A good marriage and family therapist is worth their weight in gold.
Do a Google search to find one in your area and get in touch with them. Discuss the situation with them and schedule an appointment. Obviously, this should be done in consultation with your ex.
If your ex is willing to go down this road hopefully the problem can be resolved quickly and amicably. In this case, you are well on your way to seeing your kids again.
If your ex is not willing to do this, that’s a sure-fire sign that she’s not interested in resolving this problem but rather is just using your kids as ammunition to battle with you. In either case, you are most likely one step closer to seeing your kids on a regular basis.
Hire a Lawyer
I know, I know this is a terrible option. Cost also might prohibit you from making this choice as well. Do some homework and see if you can find some legal option you can afford.
If your ex is keeping your kids from you, she clearly is not worried about what YOU might do. If she begins to worry about what a court might do, that may drastically change the dynamic.
As with all of the things on this topic, do your best to make sure you have your ducks in a row. When you’re speaking to an attorney, they are most likely charging you for every minute you’re speaking to them. Make sure you are prepared on your end before you start the meter running.
Be prepared to discuss in detail what has led you to this point, including any documentation you may have from the court that has jurisdiction over whatever co-parenting agreement you have with your ex. The “he said and she said” of all this is probably not going to be all that relevant legally.
First things first may simply be a letter from your attorney to either your ex or her attorney. This letter cannot simply be that your feelings are being hurt. It needs to describe how your ex is violating your rights, what she can do to remedy that situation, and what you will potentially do if she does not want to comply with that demand.
Many may read this and feel this is a drastic escalation of the problem. In my humble opinion, there’s not much gray area between two parents that adhere to a schedule and take legal action when one does not.
If you keep hoping that your ex will “come around” you will probably be waiting a long time. This is only my experience, but as I said most exes are not going to be worried about you, they’re going to be worried about what a court might do.
What’s more, the longer you wait to take action the more time you will not see your kids. It is important once again to remind you that the problem here is not your desire to see your kids. The problem is the ex that it’s not letting you do that.
If you are going to go the route of an attorney, you are spending your time and money doing this so don’t do it half-assed. You need to be prepared to take whatever legal action your lawyer recommends making sure you are seeing your kids when you should.
If you were going into this thinking “I hope a letter from a lawyer will scare her into doing the right thing“ but then you’re not willing to go any further than that, don’t waste your time and money. I know you don’t want to go down this road, but if you must do it then do it right.
Constantly Follow Up and Through
It is unfortunate to say but chances are if you’re going to do this one you’ll probably go through it many more times in the future. Just because you reach some agreement about seeing your kids on a regular basis, do not let your guard down.
Keep documenting all of your interactions with your ex good, bad, and indifferent. It is always smart to hope for the best but plan for the worst.