10 Steps to Overcome an Ex Who Refuses Contact with Your Child

If your ex-spouse willfully disregards court-ordered custody or visitation arrangements, you have the right to take legal action to enforce those rights. 

These rights include the right to file a motion with the court, seeking remedies such as makeup visitation time, penalties for non-compliance, attorney fees, and even having them held in contempt of court order. 

This article will discuss the steps you can take if your ex-spouse violates a court custody plan by cutting off communication.

Step 1: Assessing the Situation and Understanding Your Rights

When faced with an ex-spouse who refuses contact with your child, it’s crucial to start by assessing the situation and understanding your legal rights. 

Familiarize yourself with the custody and visitation agreements established during the divorce proceedings, as they serve as the foundation for determining each parent’s rights

Pull out your custody agreement and parenting plan and read over it. This will clarify your specific rights and responsibilities as a parent.

Step 2: Attempt to Establish Communication

The first step in handling this situation is to try and establish communication with your ex-spouse. You must approach them respectfully and express your concerns regarding their lack of contact. 

Highlight the importance of maintaining a healthy relationship between the child and both parents.

Step 3: Documenting Instances of Contact Refusal

To strengthen your case, keeping a detailed record of instances where your ex-spouse refuses contact with your child is essential. 

Maintain a journal documenting missed visitations, denied phone calls, or any other incidents demonstrating non-compliance with the custody and visitation arrangements. 

Include dates, times, and a description of each occurrence, along with supporting evidence such as text messages, emails, or voicemails.

Step 4: Offer To Go To Mediation

If direct communication fails, consider engaging the services of a professional mediator. Mediators can help facilitate conversations between you and your ex-spouse, assisting in finding common ground and resolving conflicts amicably.

Step 5: Consulting with Your Attorney

If your informal attempts to seek a resolution fail, I recommend seeking legal advice. Your attorney will guide the best course of action based on your specific circumstances and the applicable laws in your jurisdiction. 

They can assess the strength of your case, help you understand the available legal options, and strategize the next steps to protect your child’s rights.

Step 6: Enforce Existing Court Orders

If communication, mediation, and documentation fail to resolve the issue, it may be necessary to legally escalate the matter by filing a court complaint. 

When faced with a situation where existing court orders are being violated or ignored, the court has various measures to enforce those orders. Here are some actions that a court can take to enforce existing court orders:

1. Contempt of Court

Contempt of court is a powerful tool that the court can utilize to address non-compliance with its orders. When a party willfully and intentionally violates a court order, they may be held in contempt. 

This can result in various consequences, such as fines, sanctions, or imprisonment. By finding a party in contempt, the court aims to emphasize the seriousness of its orders and compel compliance. 

The specific penalties imposed will depend on the case’s circumstances and the violation’s severity. Contempt charges are meant to compel compliance and demonstrate the seriousness of the court’s orders.

2. Make-Up Time

In cases where visitation or parenting time has been denied or interfered with, the court can order make-up time for the aggrieved parent. This ensures that the parent who was deprived of time with their child can spend additional time to compensate for the lost visitation.

3. Modification of Orders

If the violations of court orders persist or the non-compliance significantly impacts the child’s best interests, the court may consider modifying the existing orders. 

This could involve adjusting custody arrangements, visitation schedules, or other terms to ensure the child’s well-being and the enforcement of the court’s orders.

4. Parenting Classes or Counseling

In some cases, the court may order the non-compliant party to attend parenting classes or counseling. 

These programs aim to address the underlying issues contributing to the violations and promote healthier co-parenting dynamics. 

By participating in these programs, the party may better understand their obligations and responsibilities under the court orders.

5. Suspension of Privileges

In extreme cases of non-compliance, the court may suspend certain privileges of the non-compliant party. 

For example, the court may suspend a parent’s driver’s license, passport, or other privileges until they comply with the court’s orders. This action is meant to exert pressure on the non-compliant party to fulfill their obligations.

6. Payment of Attorney Fees

In situations where one party has acted in bad faith or engaged in unnecessary litigation, the court may order that party to pay the other parent’s attorney fees. 

This is a form of reimbursement for the legal expenses incurred by the compliant party due to the non-compliant party’s actions. 

The court may consider factors such as the financial resources of each party, the reasonableness of their positions, and the overall fairness of the situation when making this determination. 

The goal is to discourage behavior that unnecessarily burdens the other party with legal costs and encourage compliance with court orders.

Step 7: Exploring Temporary Emergency Orders

In situations where the safety or well-being of your child is at immediate risk due to your ex-spouse’s refusal of contact, you may need to seek temporary emergency orders from the court. 

These orders grant you temporary custody or visitation rights to ensure your child’s protection until a more permanent solution can be established. 

Step: 8: Gathering Strong Evidence for Court

As you proceed through the legal process, you must gather strong evidence supporting your claims regarding your ex-spouse’s refusal to maintain contact. 

This evidence may include text messages, emails, or any other communication demonstrating their non-compliance. Additionally, provide any relevant documentation regarding missed visitations or instances where your ex-spouse disregarded court-ordered arrangements. 

Presenting compelling evidence will significantly bolster your case in court.

Step 9: Document the Impact on Your Child

Keep detailed records of how the lack of contact with your ex-spouse affects your child emotionally, psychologically, and academically. 

Document changes in their behavior, mood, and overall development. This information will be valuable in court proceedings.

Step 10: Present Your Case in Court

When presenting your case in court, it is essential to be prepared and organized. Consult with your attorney to develop a persuasive legal strategy. 

Clearly articulate the facts, present evidence, and emphasize the child’s best interests. Engage in respectful and professional communication during court proceedings.

Be prepared to provide testimony and answer questions regarding the incidents of contact refusal and the impact on your child’s well-being. 

The court will consider the evidence and listen to both sides before deciding. 


Q. Can you lose custody for not co-parenting? 

Failure to co-parent or demonstrate an unwillingness to work with the other parent may have consequences in a custody dispute. 

If one parent consistently undermines the other parent’s involvement, refuses to communicate, or obstructs the other parent’s relationship with the child, the court could view it negatively and lead to a change in custody.

Q. Can you call the police if your ex won’t let you see your child?

If your ex-partner denies you access to your child in violation of a court-ordered visitation schedule or custody agreement, you may be able to involve the police. 

In some cases, the police can assist if there is clear evidence of a custody violation or if you have a court order specifying your visitation rights. 

They may intervene to enforce the court order and help facilitate the child exchange between parents. However, the extent to which the police will get involved will depend on the policies of your local police department. 

For a detailed discussion on this issue, you can learn more by reading this article:

Q. How severe must a custody agreement violation be before a court helps me?

The severity of a custody agreement violation required for court intervention can vary depending on the laws of your state. 

Generally, courts prioritize the child’s best interests and ensure that both parents can maintain a meaningful relationship with their child.

In most cases, the courts will consider the following factors when determining the need for intervention:

  • Substantial denial of visitation: If your ex consistently and substantially denies you access to your child, especially without any valid reason, it will be considered a serious violation.
  • Repeated or ongoing violations: Multiple instances of custody agreement violations, particularly if they are recurring and demonstrate a pattern, may be more likely to warrant court intervention.
  • Impact on the child’s well-being: Courts are typically concerned about how custody agreement violations affect the child’s well-being. If the violations have a negative effect on the child’s physical or emotional health, education, or overall development, it may increase the likelihood of court involvement.
  • Parental alienation: If the custodial parent is intentionally or systematically undermining your relationship with the child, such as through negative remarks, limiting communication, or interfering with visitation, courts may consider it a severe violation.

Q. Can my ex-spouse legally cut off all contact with me and our child?

No, unless specific circumstances pose a risk to the child’s well-being, both parents have the right to maintain contact with their child. Cutting off all contact without valid reasons is not legally permissible.

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Tim McDuffey is a practicing attorney in the State of Missouri. Tim is a licensed member of the Missouri Bar and Missouri Bar Association.

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