QUESTION:My husband and I are divorcing and my husband says he doesn’t want to have anything to do with the raising of our children; can I force him to take some responsibility for their upbringing?

When parents divorce, they often argue about who will get custody of the children. In most cases, both parents want to see the children as frequently as possible. Although neither parent wants to “share”, they eventually come up with a custody and visitation schedule that splits time between parents.

But, sometimes a parent decides that he or she no longer wants to be a part of the children’s lives after the divorce. The parent has the right to refuse both custody and visitation. However, he cannot refuse financial responsibility. In Pennsylvania, parents have a legal responsibility to support their children until the age of 18. This financial responsibility is independent of  child custody laws and visitation.

Although the child is still financially supported by the absent parent, the abandonment can be very difficult for a child to understand. It may seem as though the parent is “divorcing” the children.

5 Reasons Why a Parent May Refuse Custody and Visitation

  1. The parent feels that being with the children is not in their best interest. This is often the case when the parent has a serious medical condition, mental health issue or addiction problem.
  2. The parent feels that being with the children will interfere with his or her career, social life or medical condition.
  3. The child has special needs or a medical condition that are too much for the parent to emotionally handle.
  4. The parent feels that the responsibility of having a family has kept him or her from achieving goals and dreams.
  5. The parent is eager to move to a new relationship and does not want to involve the children.

When a parent decides to cut his family ties, the decision has a strong emotional impact on the children. Children may blame themselves or the other parent for the abandonment. They may become angry or withdrawn. They may try to “test” the love of the remaining parent by acting out.

Individual or group therapy can be very helpful when children feel abandoned. The therapist can help you explain the situation to the kids and help the children cope with their feelings. The therapist can also provide guidance as your family moves towards your new future.

Eventually, your family will adjust. But, what will you do if the absent parent has a change of heart?

For assistance regarding family law matters, contact the Philadelphia family lawyers at Petrelli Previtera.