Parents who live some distance away from their children and their co-parent often feel left out of their kids’ lives. That’s natural even when co-parents have an amicable relationship if the non-custodial parent lives in another part of the country or outside the country.
FaceTime, Zoom and other video apps have made it easier for parents and children to feel closer even when they’re thousands of miles apart. When kids are too young to have their own electronics, the custodial parent has to allow those communications to happen.
What if your co-parent never seems to pick up when you call at the pre-arranged time or repeatedly tells you that your child isn’t available (for example, asleep, sick, at a friend’s house)? Is there anything you can do?
It helps if you have clear provisions in your parenting plan regarding how often and when you are to have “virtual visitation” or other communication with your child. That provides clear expectations to which you can hold your co-parent accountable. If they’re repeatedly not making your child available for those communications, then you may be able to go to court.
What if you haven’t addressed communication in your parenting plan?
Maybe you don’t have specific communications provisions because you’re still working on your parenting plan or didn’t think you’d need them when you drew it up. Then you need to ask yourself if your expectations are reasonable. If you want to visit with your child every evening before their bedtime, that’s likely reasonable. If you expect your child to be available multiple times a day when you call, that’s probably not.
It’s also important to make sure that you’re calling at a time that’s convenient for your child and your co-parent – particularly if you’re in different time zones. It’s also crucial to separate your scheduled calls with your child from any communication you need to have with your co-parent. That just complicates matters.
Whether you have a virtual visitation schedule in place or not, if you believe your co-parent is intentionally keeping you from talking to your child, start keeping a record. Document every instance when you’ve called (including date and time) and what happened. If it’s not just an occasional unforeseen issue but seems to be a pattern, get legal guidance to determine what your best next step should be.