What to do when your ex won’t let you see the children

“My ex won’t let me see the children, can you help?” is a common message I receive on my voicemail. The message is usually left by a father at his wits end, who is thinking about going to court to force his ex to allow him to see his children.


I can only imagine how stressful it is like for these Dads (or sometimes Mums), being denied access to their children – and for the children, too. No wonder they are at their wits end and looking for help.


But, the thing is, court has to be the last resort option. If your ex is willing to consider mediation, then this is going to be better for you and your children. Even if your ex isn’t willing to mediate, there are steps you can take to improve the situation before taking the final steps of going to court.


Emotions are often running high following a separation and children can get caught in the middle, without us even meaning that to happen. So often we are in flight or fight mode and just doing our best to get by.


We take out our frustrations on each other and are quick to blame and judge. Somehow our normal, reasonable self gets lost somewhere – and our children suffer as a result.


Below, I have posed some questions to ask yourself if your ex won’t let you see your children. They are not posed in order to judge you, but instead to allow you to take stock of anything you might be doing to contribute to the current circumstances and to consider if there is anything you can do differently.


  1. Are you making your child maintenance payments on time and for the correct amount?

Often parents that come in to meet me explain that there has been a recent problem in paying child maintenance and as a result it has been paid late, or not in full or not at all. I ask whether the parent has communicated in advance to the other parent the reasons behind the late or reduced payment and when it will be corrected. Often they haven’t, and they feel a little indignant that money should be being used as a reason not to see their children. Agreed, it should not be used as an excuse. But equally, you are not doing yourself any favours if you are not paying on time or in full and you are not communicating with your ex about it. To create a good co-parenting relationship, it is important that you are respectful and communicate well. The other parent is likely to be relying on the child maintenance payments to meet their monthly bills. Without it and with no prior knowledge it isn’t being paid, this could put them in a difficult position. That’s not fair and it’s not respectful.


  1. Is your communication calm, polite and reasonable – even when provoked?

Would you feel proud of your communication in front of someone you respect? One father explained recently that he was prevented from seeing his children on the agreed day because the Mum said that they were going to collect a new puppy. He shared that his response was, ‘So that takes all day, does it?’ in a sarcastic, angry tone. It didn’t really help communication and an argument followed. Another common mistake is to have the doorstep argument at handovers. Make sure your communication is calm, polite and reasonable even if you are provoked.


  1. Do you stick to arrangements when they have been made?

Are you on time and do you put the arrangements for your children first? If not, is it any surprise that the other parent gets frustrated and makes it harder for you to see the children next time? Be on your best behaviour for your children. Don’t let them down. If you have to change the plans, make sure you communicate this at the earliest opportunity.


  1. Do you put your children first when you are with them?

Do you spend quality time with them? Children want to spend one on one time with their parents. More than anything they want your attention and love (even if they don’t behave that way!) Can you work out some activities that you both really enjoy together and make the time special for both of you? Give your children your undivided attention when you are with them.


  1. Are you doing all that you can to be a good parent, despite the difficulty with the other parent?

For example, are you keeping in touch with your child or children’s school yourself so you know what is going on and you can attend school events? Are you keeping in regular contact with your children by calling between visits? Do you listen to your children when you are with them? It can feel very disempowering if one parent is taking control of the parenting. But you don’t have to become a victim to it. Take control of the bits you can control.


  1. Do you behave respectfully to the other parent, support them as a parent and not badmouth them?

However the other parent behaves towards you, you can be the bigger person. You may not be able to control what the other parent does, but you can control how you respond.


It is normal for tensions to be high immediately after separation and often for some time afterwards. But in the majority of cases, once things have settled down, parents work together to do the best for their children.


Parents who are respectful, who communicate politely and respectfully, who don’t badmouth the other parent and who do what they say they will do, are far more likely to create a good co-parenting relationship. Of course this isn’t always easy, who said it would be? But it gets easier as time goes by and our children will thank us for getting it right for them.


In this video, Christina McGhee looks at things from the other point of view of when a Mum wants her ex to see the children and he is absent https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oAdL1qvkgDo


Sometimes you have tried all of the above and your ex still won’t let you see the children regularly and won’t consider mediation. In these cases, court may be your only option but feel free to contact me to chat through your circumstances polly@abingdonfamilymediation.co.uk or call on 07706 513496.

What to do when your ex won’t let you see the children
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