You love your child and want what is best for your child. You no longer have a relationship with the other parent but you enjoy spending time with your child. You show up to see your child as normal and the other parent refuses to let you see your child. What do you do? In this blog, we discuss options when the other parent withholds your child.

What To Do When the Other Parent Withholds Your Child

First Question: Is There a Custody Order?

Often the first question to ask is if there is a custody order. If you and the other parent are divorced, you likely have a custody order and parenting plan as part of the divorce decree. Generally, the parenting plan will include what days and times the child is with each parent. However, if you were never married or are married but living apart, you may not have a custody order spelling out your time with the child.

If no order yet

If you don’t have a custody order in place and the other parent is withholding the child, it means it is often time to file the custody or divorce action. After the action is filed, you can generally get a court hearing relatively quickly. In Nebraska, this is called a temporary hearing and usually results in the Court entering a temporary order stating when the child will be with each parent while the action is pending. In most cases, this gets you your time back with your child relatively quickly.

If there is already an order

If there is already an order in place, then you are one step ahead. Review your order carefully and follow its terms. If the other parent is not following the order and without good reason, it may be time to bring legal action to get the Court’s assistance in enforcing the order and getting your parenting time back.

Second Question: How Old is the Child?

A baby is not going to have much say in the matter. However, if you child is older, and especially if your child is a teen, what your child wants may be one of the most important factors to consider. If your child is a teen, you need to ask yourself if it is truly the other parent withholding or if it is actually the child refusing. As your child nears adulthood, the Court will start to give more and more weight as to how the child wants to spend their time and with whom.

Third Question: Why is the Other Parent Withholding?

How to handle this situation depends somewhat on the reason for the withholding. Some common reasons for withholding are below.


It is clear that a parent can’t withhold a child for financial reasons. A parent can’t deny time until receiving a certain amount of payment from the other parent.


It also clear that you can’t use the child as a pawn in your arguments. A parent can’t withhold a child due to being upset or trying to get their way.


Just because the relationship has ended between the parents doesn’t mean a parent can sever the relationship between the child and the other parent. Too many times you see a parent that doesn’t want their child to have anything to do with the other parent just because the relationship has ended and they prefer the other parent out of their lives.


This one tends to go with dislike. There are times that a parent tries to persuade the child to dislike the other parent as the parent has ended their relationship and wants the child to do so as well. The parent may actively work to poison and sever the child’s relationship with the other parent.

Lack of a Schedule

This happens too often when parents break up and don’t get a custody order in place quickly. Each parent is not afraid of the other parent but is afraid that if they give the child to the other parent, then the other parent won’t give the child back. They are doing exactly what they fear the other parent will do to them. Sometimes you will even see a protection order filed when the “fear” they have of the other parent is really just a lack of an agreement on the custody and parenting time schedule.

Child’s Preference

This can be a tricky one with an older child, especially teens. For example, if your child is 16 years old, they may not want to spend every other Friday and Saturday night with either parent. It may be nothing against you and just the child’s age. It may be time to adjust the schedule to something that works better for your child. On the other hand, some children try to play their parents off each other. They use refusal to try to manipulate their parents and get what they want. In those situations, it is important to not empower the child.

Legitimate Reasons

Sometimes a parent or child does have a legitimate reason. Did something happen that it might make sense to skip a visit or for a cooling-off period to happen? Are you and your child struggling to the point where it makes sense to get a counselor or another professional involved to try to improve the relationship? Do you have other issues going on with your life right now that your child may have a legitimate reason for wanting to stay out of the situation until things get better? Be honest with yourself as we are all human. Sometimes we do have things that we need to address first before they negatively impact the child.

Steps to Take Before Getting the Courts Involved

1. Gather Evidence

Keep copies of communications and other tangible proof to show that you’ve been denied parenting time without a good reason. Keeping track of details, such as dates, times, and any relevant communication (texts, emails, etc.) can help support your case.

2. Attempt Communication

Try to resolve the issue through positive communication with the other parent. Express your concerns calmly and focus on the best interests of your child. Keep records of any attempts at communication, including responses or lack thereof. Be the bigger person. Even if the other side uses name-calling or immature tactics, remain calm and professional. Don’t get emotional. Easier said than done, but keeping a cool head can make or break a case.

3. Consult Your Order for Your Rights

Review your parenting plan or court order carefully to ensure you understand your rights and the other parent’s obligations regarding visitation. If the agreement is being violated, consider seeking legal advice immediately. If you don’t have a custody order, it may be time to file a custody and parenting time action.

4. Mediation

If direct communication fails, consider mediation as a way to resolve the issues outside of court. Mediation can help facilitate constructive discussions and find mutually acceptable solutions. Also, in some courts, an attempt at mediation is required before you can file further legal action.

5. Counseling

Sometimes there are issues to work though. If the parents and child are open to it, a therapist can help improve the relationship so that the reason for the withholding is addressed.

Time for Legal Action

If all reasonable attempts to resolve the issue informally are unsuccessful, you may need to take legal action. Contact your family law attorney to discuss your options. Common actions include filing a motion for a show cause/contempt of court, a motion to compel parenting time, or a modification action, among other possible options. Don’t wait too long to take the action. If you can’t resolve the withholding on your own within a matter of weeks, then it is time to file legal action. If you wait too long to assert your rights, the Court may find that you waived them by not acting promptly.

Protecting Your Child’s Best Interests

During this challenging time, it’s essential to prioritize your child’s well-being. Avoid speaking negatively about the other parent in front of your child, as this can create emotional stress and confusion. Instead, focus on providing a stable and loving environment during your time together.

Maintain open lines of communication with your child, reassuring them of your love and commitment. Encourage them to express their feelings and concerns about the situation without judgment. Reaffirm that the issue is between the adults and does not affect your love for them. Keep the child out of disputes with the other parent as much as possible.

Seeking Support

Facing child withholding can be emotionally draining and isolating. Reach out to trusted friends and family members for emotional support. Consider joining a support group for parents experiencing similar challenges. Having a strong support network can provide comfort and perspective during this difficult time. This will help you face the conflict with maturity and professionalism.

What To Do If the Other Parent Withholds Your Child

Dealing with a situation where the other parent withholds your child is undoubtedly challenging. By keeping a cool head, addressing the issues, and seeking appropriate support, you can navigate this situation effectively. Remember to prioritize your child’s well-being throughout the process and seek legal advice promptly if needed. With patience, persistence, and a focus on constructive communication, you can work towards ensuring that your child maintains a loving and stable relationship with both parents despite the challenges of separation.

Law Office of Julie Fowler, PC, LLO | Divorce Lawyers Omaha

Child Custody | Child Support | Divorce Lawyers Omaha

If you are looking for an attorney in a child custody, child support case or divorce case in Omaha, Nebraska, or the surrounding areas (including Papillion, Bellevue, Gretna, Elkhorn, Douglas, and Sarpy), contact our office to set up a consultation.

The information you obtain at this site is not, nor is it intended to be, legal advice. You should consult an attorney for advice regarding your individual situation.