The Law Offices of Christine G. DeBernardis

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Absent Parents: The Parent Who Used to be Absent

Absent parents is a topic that I see frequently in my practice. Here’s a perfect example: Mom was pregnant but dad wanted nothing to do with her, or the baby, during pregnancy and for a while thereafter. At some point, for whatever reason, the dad becomes interested in building a relationship with the child and seeks visitation. Mom wants to use the fact that dad wasn’t involved as a reason to prevent, or delay, future visitation and/or to make it supervised visitation.

The fact is that lack of a previous relationship, or an interest in one, between parent and child is not a reason to prevent visitation in the present or future. There are many reasons why a parent may be an absent parent in a child’s life, both good and bad. Absent a particular safely issue between the parent and that child (read below), the Court is not going to prevent a relationship at present or in the future.

When I say “absent a particular safely issue between the parent and that child” what I mean to say that the parent and the child have had an issue between themselves in the past. I do not mean that the dad has had issues with the mom. I do not mean that the dad was arrested in the past for something not involving the child (though in some cases, this may be relevant. Of course, seek counsel for your particular issue). I do not mean that the dad’s girlfriend and the mom do not get along. I do not mean that the dad “doesn’t know how to take care of a child (see my blog later in the week for more on this!).” I mean that if the dad and the child have had issues of safety, abuse, trauma between them in the past, the Court may prevent visitation after dad’s absence in the child’s life (for some period or even simply make it supervised. Again, seek counsel for your particular situation).

I know that it is hard to imagine that after a period of time, however long or short that may be, your child is expected to pick up a relationship with his other parent. However, that parent – and your child- have a right to know each other. Try to be supportive and positive for your child, even if you are nervous or unsure. It will help him/her get through that initial unfamiliar stage and make the visits run smoothly. If you are outwardly resistant in front of your kids, it only creates more stress and makes them worry about the effect of the visits on you too.

One thing that you might have noted in this blog is that I took the time to tell you to “seek counsel for your particular situation” several times. Please do that! Every situation is different and you should never use a general rule of practice to decide how to proceed in your case. Contact me and we will sit down to figure out what is important for your case and how to proceed in the best interest of your child. We are a phone call away if you need information or an assessment of your situation.

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