I have a friend, ten years old, who is going nuts because his father has rejected him entirely since he lost shared custody. But my friend sees his father around town, and this constantly reopens the wound.

Is there anything that can be done legally about this?

Mother petitioned to change the court order because father was physically and emotionally abusive to the child.

The court order that changed the custody arrangement states that father may have visitation at a certain frequency -- one weekend per month, one day per week, something like that. But since then there have been 0 visits, and father doesn't respond to phone, text, email or snail mail from the child or the mother.

The court order acknowledges that the father has unpredictable shift work, and says father should contact mother to arrange dates for visitation.

I think some sort of mediation would be best, because mother gets extremely nervous in court, and can't afford a lawyer. The pro bono lawyers in our town are either flaky or impose their own agenda on the person with limited means. They're not like private lawyers, who have the financial motivation to carry out the client's directives.


I found a Parents Handbook with an FAQ at https://www.nycourts.gov/ip/parent-ed/, which says

What happens if a custodial parent violates a visitation order? Traditionally, courts have been reluctant to impose a jail sentence when a parent withholds visitation, although it has been done. More common penalties for the persistent withholding of, or interference with, visitation are the suspension of maintenance, transfer of custody, providing make-up time, and/or requiring the payment of counsel fees.

  • The father has a legal he can exercise. Does not mean he has to.
    – Viktor
    Dec 19, 2015 at 23:18
  • 1
    If a father doesn't want to see his child, no matter how bad you think it is, forcing him to see the child is unlikely to produce any positive result. Unless you also force him to pretend that he has any interest in the child and cares one bit about the child.
    – gnasher729
    Dec 22, 2015 at 8:58
  • I think if a mediator asked the father, "How many times per year would feel right for you to see A.?" he would give a non-zero number. Dec 23, 2015 at 3:30
  • I would say a forced relationship is an unhealthy relationship.
    – Terry
    Dec 23, 2015 at 15:57
  • 1
    So you think if the father spends time with the child, he'll be more willing to pay support on time. Maybe, maybe not. Is there some reason why you haven't tried DCSE to set up a garnishment of his wages?
    – mkennedy
    Dec 24, 2015 at 0:49

1 Answer 1


This question makes me sad.

I think the answer will likely not be a legal one but, rather, an emotional one.

Courts have many reasons to be reluctant to impose a duty of visitation upon a recalcitrant parent; so courts typically will not.

I think the best course of action is for mom (or maybe a helpful third party, but coming from mom first would be best) to call and make an emotional appeal to dad something along the following lines:

  • Despite what happened between us, your son loves you very much.
  • I know that despite what happened, you are a good man. (Even if nobody else actually believes that, be sure dad believes it. So it will be helpful to say this.)
  • I know you love your son too.
  • Your son wants to be closer to you.
  • I would be happy to change the visitation order to whatever you like. (Like above, even if not totally true, it's very helpful to say. It opens hearts, minds and communication channels. If he wants to take her up on this. She should listen and be open to it.)
  • Please visit your son. He wants and needs a relationship with you.

Be proactive and appeal to dad's emotions while lowering the overall level of acrimony.

Since I'm commenting, I'll also add this in parting. As a practical matter, so many legal actions have unintended adverse consequences and therefore just because we can do them it doesn't mean we should do them in order to get the best outcome. Visitation orders and jail time to enforce child support are good examples of this. Sometimes the acrimony involved in taking away or reducing the amount of time a parent is entitled to spend with their children can cause the parent to spend even less time with the child and ultimately hurt the child. Whose interests and wellbeing should be everyone's top concern. Similarly to the point, putting parents behind bars for not paying child support can make it even more difficult for them the earn the money with which to pay the support they are required to pay. It's a crazy world.

  • Thank you! Yes, it is a tragedy. Okay, a couple things I left out (sorry): the father was physically and emotionally abusive, hence the change of custody; neither mother nor I want father to go to jail -- we just want him to set up a payment plan to pay the back child support, and we want him to start paying the correct amount, on time, because mother goes nuts when she is not able to pay her bills on time. Father earns three times as much as mother earns. // No way is Father going to allow them to send him to jail -- he is a police officer in our town! And there is ... Dec 19, 2015 at 21:10
  • ... nothing to be gained for Mother or my young friend if Father goes to jail -- he would stop earning, and the child support would go down from the current 80% of the court-ordered amount, to 0. Also, I shudder to think about the effect Father going to jail would have on my young friend. Dec 19, 2015 at 21:12
  • Re visitation: Mother has tried many times to contact Father to set up visitation, but he is unresponsive. // I took dictation from my young friend in August to help him write a letter to his father, and we mailed it to the correct address -- no response. Father has a great deal of difficulty separating his anger at Mother out of all of this. Also, he's not the smartest pea in the pod. Dec 19, 2015 at 21:14

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