My ex-partner and I share joint custody of our 12-year-old son, but now she’s stopping me from having any contact with him. Every time we agree on a visit, she doesn’t show up. And now she’s no longer returning my phone calls. I’ve taken to dropping by her house – we live only two blocks apart – but she never answers the door. I bought my son a cell phone so we could communicate despite her interference, but he stopped returning my calls after I introduced him to my new partner a couple of weeks ago. What should I do?

Linda answers:

First of all, it’s really important not to let a custody dispute like this go on because it could set a precedent that might be hard to reverse. It sounds like your ex is doing something called triangulation –that is, using your son as a wedge between you and her, and making him feel that he has to choose between the two of you. He may think that by returning your calls he’d be betraying her and even possibly lose her love. But I also suspect he’s crying out for you to make a bold move and break the stalemate.

Even though your son is young he should have many choices. However, whether or not he sees you, his parent, is not one of his choices. I would suggest that you show up at his school on a regular basis to pick him up, which joint custody gives you the right to do. You could email him and arrange to meet three days a week. Regardless of his reaction or behavior (he may lash out or freeze you out), be there to love him, to be a role model, and to give him a sense of consistency, which will make him feel safe and comfortable.

It seems like you’ve been trying to avoid going the legal route with your ex, which is understandable. But if she continues to refuse to let you see your son, contact the court so they can advise you on the process for initiating legal proceedings against her. The family court system offers free legal counsel and is there to help you through the whole process. It may seem scary, but it won’t necessarily be a prolonged fight. They generally put you in a room with you ex and try to mediate a solution rather than taking your case before a judge.

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