Any time parents separate, there’s a transition period that can get a little rough. One common problem during this shift to two households is gatekeeping when one parent is limiting or stopping the other parent’s visitation with the child. This can occur in many different situations and has two different general forms: protective and restrictive.
What Is Protective Gatekeeping?
When a parent is engaging in protective gatekeeping, it’s because they have genuine concerns about the other parent that are based on facts. A parent may do this if they know the other parent has substance abuse issues, seriously lacks parenting skills, or is or has the potential to be abusive.
However justified this may seem, a parent with these concerns needs to speak to an attorney and go to court to resolve the matter. Technically, without a court order, one parent can’t stop the other parent from seeing the child. Of course, in emergency situations regarding the child’s safety, law enforcement should still be called.
When it comes to parenting skills, keep in mind there is no such thing as perfect parenting. One parent keeping the child away from their other parent just because they believe the other parent’s skills are simply not up to their own does not constitute protective gatekeeping when the other parent is able to care for the child without endangering them.
What Is a Restrictive Gatekeeping?
In restrictive gatekeeping, one parent is keeping the child away from the other parent without any reasonable justification. In many of these cases, the parent gatekeeping the child is upset about the divorce or separation and may be using the child as a means of harming the other parent. A restrictive gatekeeper may actually be a good parent, but they do not have respect for the role of the other parent in the child’s life.
There tend to be other issues involved with restrictive parents as well. They may disparage the other parent in front of the child, family, and friends, and may involve other people — such as grandparents — in the restrictive gatekeeping.
If you are in a situation with a restrictive parent, you should seek legal advice immediately. In these cases, the gatekeeping parent may be actively attempting to destroy the parent-child relationship, so the longer it goes on, the worse its effects can be on the child.
What Happens When a Child Does Not Want to See the Other Parent?
When a child no longer wants to see their parent — beyond justifiable reasons such as abuse — it could be the result of what is known as parental alienating behavior. This is when one parent has taken steps to isolate a child from their other parent via words and behavior and aims to create estrangement, division, and hostility between the other parent and the child.
It’s very difficult for the parent being alienated from their child to stop the process without a court order. If you believe this is happening to you, contact a family law attorney immediately. A court order for visitation is not a suggestion, and parents are legally obligated to comply. If the other parent of your child is preventing your court-ordered parenting time from happening on a consistent basis, they are violating a court order and should be held legally accountable.
The parent-child bond is forged, maintained and strengthened by contact and interaction. If you are in the position of being denied your time with your child or you are a parent who has valid concerns about your child’s other parent, your next step should be to obtain experienced legal counsel for help.