Is it OK for me to withhold my children from my Ex?
The most important thing to remember as any parent, and just as much so in separated families, is that you must be proactive and protective should your children face a serious or significant threat.
You must protect them from any real potential harm regardless of whether there is a parenting plan in place, Court orders or simply an agreement between the parents in split family situations where care is shared.
So, yes you should withhold a child if there is a known risk that a child may be subject to or exposed to family violence, illicit drugs, neglect, possible injury or emotional/psychological harm.
What all parents need to know is that no Court or authority will look poorly upon a parent who acts in the best interests of a child under the above circumstances; but remember you will have to justify your actions if the other parent takes the matter up with a Court so hard evidence is good (such as emails, texts, doctors reports etc.)
If not, it can be a “he said – she said” scenario, and the Court may look down on a parent who withhold a child without good reason or evidence to back up their decision.
This advice is the same for acting unilaterally to make a major change for a child with respect to major long-term decisions, such as significantly changing where they live, changing their school or undertaking major surgery or similar. These are decisions that should be made together and in consultation with each parent.
The Court wants to see parents co-parenting well or there can be serious consequences.
Consequences for acting unilaterally or withholding children if the matter goes before a Judge range from either being supported by the Court if you have done the right thing to protect the children, to have the children recovered and taken from your care.
The latter is extreme and unlikely in normal circumstances but in our experience has occurred in several family situations. Especially if it is without consent and without a firm basis. Normally a court will make sure the status quo remains unless there is a good reason for a parent to withhold their children.
If you do act unilaterally in decision-making for major decisions for a child or choose to withhold the child, first advise the other parent and consider any response from them. If agreement cannot be reached to resolve the issue between you it may be time to go to Court to make them aware of the issue. If you do not and the other parent initiates proceedings, you may find that the Court rules against you.
So, as you may glean from this piece it is a very serious thing to deprive a child of spending time with the other parent, as it is a primary view of the Court that a child should benefit from a regular and frequent relationship with both parents and that both should be involved in the child’s day to day life and school holidays time.
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