Visitation Don’ts

Some parents use visitation to achieve destructive goals. These are goals based on revenge, such as one parent hurting the other or disrupting his or her life. To achieve those goals, parents may use destructive behaviors that can create a more hostile environment and seriously damage relationships. Destructive strategies can be deeply hurtful to children caught in the middle. Following are tips for avoiding destructive behavior:

Don’t refuse to communicate with your former spouse.

  • Don’t use your children to relay divorce-related messages on issues such as child support. Those issues should be discussed by adults only.
  • Don’t make your children responsible for making, canceling, or changing visitation plans. Those are adult responsibilities.
  • Don’t use your children to spy on your former spouse.
  • Don’t fight with the other parent during drop-off and pickup times. Deal with importantissues when your children cannot overhear.Don’t disrupt your children’s relationship with their other parent.
  • Don’t make your children feel guilty about spending time with their other parent.
  • Don’t use visitation as a reward for good behavior, and don’t withhold it as punishmentfor poor behavior.
  • Don’t tell your children you will feel lonely and sad if they visit their other parent.
  • Don’t withhold visitation to punish your former spouse for problems such as missed childsupport payments. Withholding visitation punishes your children, who are not guilty.
  • Don’t withhold visitation because you feel your former spouse doesn’t deserve to see thechildren. Unless a parent is a genuine threat, adults and children need to see each other.
  • Don’t use false abuse accusations to justify withholding visitation.
  • Don’t let activities such as sports and hobbies interfere with the time your children spendwith their other parent. Your former spouse can transport the children to those activities ifneeded and can sometimes participate.
  • Don’t pressure your children about leaving clothes or toys at their other parent’s home.The children need to feel they belong in both places.
  • Don’t falsely claim that your children are sick to justify withholding visitation.
  • Don’t withhold phone calls to your children from their other parent.
  • Don’t put down the other parent’s new romantic partner.Don’t allow your anger to affect your relationship with your children.
  • Don’t hurt your children by failing to show up for visitation or by being late.

Wallerstein, Judith S. and Joan Berlin Kelly. 1980. Surviving the Breakup: How Children and Parents Cope With Divorce. Basic Books. Wallerstein, Judith S. and Sandra Blakeslee. 1990. Second Chances: Men, Women and Children A Decade After Divorce – Who Wins, Who Loses – and Why. Ticknor & Fields, N. V.
. . and justice for all Family Life 3 Originally developed as Parenting Apart: Strategies for Effective Co-Parenting by M. Mulroy, R. Sabatelli, C. Malley, and R. Waldron (1995), University of Connecticut Cooperative Extension.
Adapted with permission for use in Iowa by Lesia Oesterreich, ISU Extension family life specialist.
Editor: Jolene McCoy

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