Losing contact with one parent due to divorce is often incredibly traumatic for a child to experience. Whether the relationship was secure prior to the separation or not, suddenly not seeing or hearing from a parent can have vast consequences that impact a child for years to come. For some families, however, this type of absence may be temporary or repeat regularly because of extenuating circumstances. As long as there’s no history of violence or abuse, the opportunity for a child to form healthy, long-lasting relationships with both parents is essential.
With that being said, the reappearance of an absent parent can still be disorienting, no matter the age of the child involved. Custodial parents in this type of situation are often understandably worried about the ramifications, especially when it comes to how it will impact their child and whether the change is going to be permanent. When you’re in this situation, here are a few important factors to take into account in reintroducing the absent parent back into a child’s life.
Rebuilding the Relationship Will be a Team Effort
A parent who is re-entering a child’s life can experience everything from impatience to joy and even grief. The joy comes from being in their child’s life again, but impatience is often unavoidable because of the slow pace of rebuilding their bond. The grief is from the time they were away from their child, regardless of how that came to pass. As with any other parenting endeavor post-divorce or separation, this is a process that is going to be a team effort. To position everyone for success, here are three factors each returning parent and custodial parent need to consider.
3 Factors to Consider in Reintroducing an Absent Parent
1. Look at the Legal Side
Custodial parents sometimes go for sole custody when the other parent won’t or can’t be part of their child’s lives. The sole custody may have included court guidelines that allowed for visitation between the noncustodial parent and that child. However, if there has been a long absence and an absent father now wants to contact you and your child, that visitation schedule may no longer be appropriate. As the custodial parent, you should speak with a family law attorney as soon as they hear from the previously absent co-parent. An attorney will be able to answer questions and assist in the creation of a new plan.
If you’re the previously absent father or mother that wants to reconnect, you should also talk to a family law attorney once you decide to re-enter your child’s life. Part of this re-introductory process includes showing that you are committed to the responsibility that comes with raising children, and this means addressing outstanding obligations such as unpaid child support.
2. Plan to Take Things Slow
A custodial parent should work with the returning parent and their own attorney to create a clear plan and schedule for contact between the child and that returning parent. While the plan will depend on the circumstances of the case, it should reflect a slow and steady pace to lessen the impact of the major change on the child.
This plan should address how frequent contact will be and how it will evolve, whether contact needs to be supervised, the method of communication that will be used between the parents, and many other factors. Above all, the returning parent must stick to the plan and refrain from rushing. Even though they may be tempted to speed up the process out of excitement, that’s never beneficial for the child and may make the custodial parent hesitant and uncomfortable.
3. Consider Everyone’s Emotions
Naturally, a custodial parent may resent the absent parent who’s attempting to return. However, they need to keep in mind that regardless of their emotional perspective, they can’t let it affect their child in the situation. The child’s outlook should never be influenced by what the custodial parent feels, no matter how valid or understandable those feelings may be. Depending on the child’s age, the custodial parent must also see how the child feels about the reunification process and the pace at which it is moving.
On the other hand, the returning parent may feel anxious about the process and how both the custodial parent and the child view them. This is normal, but it’s important for the returning parent to try to understand the custodial parent’s point of view and not be ruled by only their perspective.
The process of reintroducing an absent parent to a child’s life is complicated and must be handled with care. Whether you are the returning or the custodial parent, if you would like someone on your side to help you through the process, contact us at the Law Office of Dorene A. Kuffer. Our team of experienced attorneys will approach your case with compassion and care so you can focus on your child and maintain or rebuild your relationship with them.