I am a volunteer translator-advocate for a friend. Her son used to have shared custody, but a couple of months ago, my friend went to family court to change this. Now my friend has custody but the father has visitation rights, for two days per week. The father may choose whichever days he likes. (He has an irregular, somewhat unpredictable work schedule.)

The father is upset about the change, and has stopped answering his phone. He doesn't respond to text messages either. He has not taken the initiative to have his son for a visit. He has not responded to a letter the boy dictated to me which we sent through the mail.

What is a succinct way of describing the fact that the father has, in essence, abandoned the child emotionally? (He is still paying child support.) I need a succinct description for the purposes of letting the child's school know, so they can be sensitive to the child's feelings. (He is relieved not to be living half-time with his father, who was abusive, but at the same time he is devastated at the total lack of contact.)

  • 1
    While this is a difficult situation, I don't see any legal question. Consider either editing your question to make it a legal one, or maybe try asking on a more suitable site. parenting.stackexchange.com might be suitable.
    – sleske
    Commented Oct 27, 2017 at 14:10
  • 3
    I'm voting to close this question as off-topic because it does not seem to be about a legal problem.
    – sleske
    Commented Oct 27, 2017 at 14:10
  • @sleske - I'll try to clarify. I was looking for the legalistic terminology that is typically used to describe this all-too-common situation. However, this question is two years old and if you want to close it go ahead. The family in question has found a somewhat more workable arrangement in the meantime. Commented Oct 27, 2017 at 14:34
  • English Language & Usage entertains word requests of this sort. There's even a tag for it: english.stackexchange.com/questions/tagged/single-word-requests
    – phoog
    Commented Oct 27, 2017 at 17:30
  • @phoog - Yeah, well, there's some overlap between the two sites when it comes to terminology. But I really wanted some legal terminology in this case; hence, my choice of site. Commented Oct 28, 2017 at 2:32

2 Answers 2


He is "non-communicative" or has "ceased to communicate" with his son, and has "refrained from participating in his parenting time." He has become "uninvolved' in his son's life.

FWIW, however, there isn't a lot of formal legal terminology in custody law so any language that clearly conveys the situations is fine and generally there is no good reason to be particularly brief or succinct in explaining a situation like this. More factual detail is better than precise terminology.


In a case like this I would consider creating a Parenting Plan to cover details around visitation and communication and advance notice issues. Create the plan to be fair, and include specifics (like using email, and specifying the addresses).

Petition the court to accept the parenting plan as it is necessary for effective co-parenting of the child.

Parenting plans can cover any issues which there needs to be common agreement on, such as accomplishing school work, diet, medical care and do on. But the end objective is to enhance stability for the child.

The term for the parent who is not involved would be something like a non-participative co-parent. It is important to remember that both parents have obligations to the child, not limited to finances. And in this instance one of the parents has elected, rather unilaterally, to not parent (at least to a significant extent).

  • Thanks for the suggestion. It doesn't answer what I was asking, but it looks like a great suggestion nevertheless. Commented Oct 27, 2017 at 13:48
  • By establishing a framework for parenting, one then has a means of measuring activity, and assuring that one parent is not unduly inconvenienced by the lackadaisical parenting efforts of the other parent. Ongoing non-participation by the non-custodial parent, logged contemporaneously, is a powerful tool when the custodial parent needs to move or get some other consideration from the court.
    – mongo
    Commented Oct 27, 2017 at 14:53
  • Great bonus tip. I think you should add that to the answer. (Sadly, this still doesn't address my question.) Commented Oct 28, 2017 at 2:34
  • Perhaps you might restate your question, and since it is in Law, state the jurisdiction that you are dealing with.
    – mongo
    Commented Oct 28, 2017 at 13:54
  • I'm in New York State. I hope that answers your question. But terminology is terminology, regardless of what state I'm in. This doesn't seem like there would be regional differences. Commented Oct 30, 2017 at 4:04

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .