One of the most common questions I get asked is “Can I deny access of the children to the other parent?”
The short answer is a resounding NO! There is really only one reason you can deny access and that is if there is good reason to believe that the children will be harmed by the other parent. It can’t just be a suspicion or hunch that harm will occur. For instance, even if the other parent is alcoholic, as long as they do not abuse alcohol when the children are around, the alcoholism itself isn’t reason enough to deny access. It is a basic principle of family law that normally children are better off if both parents are involved in their lives and have a relationship with them. A simple fear for your children’s safety is not enough reason to deny access – you must be able to point to something concrete.
If you do have a concern about the other parent, instead of denying access, you should either be discussing your concern with your lawyer or with the Children’s Aid Society.
Of course, no one simply asks whether they can deny access. There is always a good reason. However, what you may believe to be a good reason is not necessarily what the law believes is a good reason.
Example #1. You don’t like your ex’s new partner. From a legal point of view, it doesn’t matter what you think of the parenting abilities of your ex’s new partner. You ex is trusted to make decisions that are in the children’s best interests while the children are with them. These decisions include with which people the children can interact.
Example #2. The children are ill. Unless the children are sick enough to be in the hospital, they normally can be transported to the other parent’s house for care.
Example #3. When you are not being paid support. The issues of access and child support are considered independent issues by the law. You have legal remedies to collect support you are entitled to – don’t make your children pawns in the dispute with your ex.
Other reasons I’ve seen why a parent will want to deny access:
* doesn’t agree on holiday plans or want the children to leave the country
* the other parent picks up the child late
* you are not happy with the other parent’s living accommodations – e.g. children don’t have their own rooms, only a shower and not a bath, etc.
* you have relatives in town visiting you with whom the children want to spend time
If the children say they don’t want to see the other parent, you need to investigate this more deeply. They could feel this way for any number of reasons, some benign, and some serious. If it just because it makes them feel disloyal to you, then that is not sufficient to deny access.
If you have been denied access, you should check out our suggestions as to what to do. Unfortunately, if denial of access happens regularly, it is in your (and your child’s best interests) to proceed to court quickly.