T.K. asks from McKinney, TX on April 18, 2006
Looking for Advise or Legal Referral W/visitation Rights
I have an 8yr old who celebrates her first holy communion on the weekend she has visits with her Dad (Fort Worth). He has been un-involved in her religious ed. She doesn't want to go with him this weekend and he is taking her because of a misunderstanding between him and I. He is doing this for control reasons only. If my daughter is unwilling to leave the house at the time of pick up, can I keep her from leaving without getting in trouble? He is not talking to me and all I know from my daughter is that he plans on taking her to the church. We had a big party planned w/invitations already sent out and now I don't know what to do. Any help or suggestions is greatly appreciated.
A. answers from Dallas on April 18, 2006
I have been though this similar situation.....
I am not sure of the legal ramification. But, I do know that if she is unwilling to go you can't force her to go. Her father will just have to accept that. If he gives you trouble then just explain you had plans already and she does not want to go.
A.R. answers from Dallas on April 18, 2006
If you are able to offer the olive branch and make peace so this situation can be resolved, that would be the best thing. Its a pride-swallowing exercise that I have hated in the past but have had to do it with our son's bio-Mom who is also somewhat controlling.
Otherwise, our attorneys have advised us that we are required to take him to the drop off site listed in our decree but we can't make our son get out of the car or go with his Mother if he doesn't want to. The attorney said the decree is between the parents - so there is no legal requirement on the childs part. I hope it doesn't get to this though - I know how those rough times are and hope all goes well for you.
God bless, A.
E.H. answers from Dallas on April 18, 2006
Do you have a custody agreement in place? If your husband has custody during that time and you prevent your daughter from going, you could be held in contempt of court for interfering with his parental rights. At 8 years old, she is not legally capable of refusing to visit her father.
As a stepmother of 3 and an attorney, I'm sympathetic. Family law can be ugly. As far as the party is concerned, that is unfortunate, but a risk you take when an event falls during another parent's custody time.
To exercise strict custody rights out of spite will come back and haunt you. (Not you personally, I just mean 'you' in the general sense.) There will probably be some special occasion in the future that the father will want to have your daughter with him for that will fall during your parenting time as well, so the situation can (and WILL) work both ways. The best thing to do is concentrate on maintaining an amicable relationship so that there is some give and take there. I know from experience that is easier said than done, but it won't take long for him to realize that being inflexible will only damage his relationship with his daughter and cause him to lose out in the future.
One last word of advice - do not say bad things about him for taking his custody time. Maybe it is for the wrong reasons, but you never want to give your daughter the impression that the only reason her father wants to spend time with her is out of spite or to punish you, not out of love. Don't say things like "if it were up to me, you could stay, but dad says you have to go" or "the judge is making me do it". It just creates a truly bad environment.
Please feel free to ask any more specific questions you might have, and good luck. I know this is tough.
R.V. answers from Dallas on April 18, 2006
Hi - If there is ever a need for you to have your child on a weekend when she is suppose to go with her Dad all you have to do is mail him a letter that states - "On Feb --- to Feb --- our child will not be available for pick due to a prior commitment. I will be happy to schedule a make up weekend that is agreeable with both of us."
It is that simple. You do not have to beg or plead or put up with his nonsense. This is a very big step for her and you have already planned this event so I would send the letter and be done with him.
Hope this helps.
E.T. answers from Dallas on April 18, 2006
If your daughter doesn't go with her dad, you will be in contempt. This is assuming you have a decree that spells out visitation and clearly says this is his weekend. If you don't have any court orders, then you're not in contempt although your actions would still be frowned upon if he takes you to court.
This is probably not the best forum to ask this question, mainly because I'm not sure how many divorced moms are out there.
Here are some other online resources you should check out:
Make sure you include where you're located (TX) and what your decree says regarding visitation.
In the meantime, I would try to offer your ex make-up time. Give him extra time to ensure that she makes her communion and party. Also, I think you said that he's taking her to the church, right? So what exactly do you think she's going to miss? Her party afterwards? Just trying to fill in the spots that seem to be missing something.
Feel free to email back. I'm not a lawyer, but pretty well versed in the TX family code.
L.M. answers from Dallas on April 18, 2006
I am sorry to say that you can not keep her from going without getting into trouble. I would offer to allow him to come get her after the party or to invite him to attend so that he could take her when it is over. I know someone who may be able to assist if you need further help.
Good Luck and Congrats to your daughter!
M.T. answers from Dallas on April 18, 2006
I too would invite him. I know, easier said than done but give him an invitation and tell him he is welcome to attend the party after the ceremony and take her home after the festivities.
Who knows it might be good practice for the both of you to be around each other in thit situation, there are going to be many other occasions when this is going to be expected of you. Before you know it a graduation and a wedding will be on the horizon.
Maybe this invitation will help the control issues he is hanging over your head too. Best of luck to you, I hope all goes well! Congratulations on your daughters big day!!!!
A.K. answers from Dallas on April 19, 2006
Sorry to hear that you have to go through this. God must think you're pretty tough to handle it all. I asked a lawyer in my neighborhood what his advice would be and he said this:
"If this is a Texas custody issue and controlled by a Texas order my advice to my client would be to do everything that she could to make sure that the order is followed and the visitation happens otherwise she empowers the child to control the relationship which could later backfire on her and two she could be viewed as acting against the best interest of the child. These things can be BIG trouble.
The best advice is that if he is being controlling he has probably always been controlling and will not stop at this. I would suggest that the party continue and that the child ask her dad if she can attend the party and make sure he knows he is truly welcome (if you can be sure he won't cause a scene).
The best advice is may be:
If he does go to church with her see if the pastor/priest or a family member both respect will mediate the conflict there is usually more middle ground because of the best interest of the child than most will see. Offer him an extra evening from 6-8:00 PM if he will let her come to the party for 2 hours.
Finally, make sure that these issues are documented because there will be future litigation and a journal can be admitted in the proper circumstances to document these things and the disputes will not be as fresh as they are now."
Hope this helps. If you need to talk to him I can get you in touch with him.