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When The Custodial Parent Blocks Communication with the Kids

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  • Post last modified:January 27, 2022

What to do when the custodial parent blocks communication with the kids is a common question from long distance parents. For long distance parents, phone calls are an integral part of a custody arrangement.

“My ex continues to make excuses as to why she does not answer her phone, which is my only contact with my kids. She is in one state and I am in another. My question is…is there anyway to make my ex legally responsible to answer her phone when I call? “

The answer, unfortunately isn’t super cut and dry. In general, no parent is ‘on call’ for the other parent, whether they are the custodial or non-custodial parent. The parent that has physical custody of the kids at a given time, in general, must also allow contact with the kids. This makes for some murky grey area between the parent’s rights to the child versus their right to the other parent. Additionally, the history of the co-parents and the court order in question are both relevant to the situation.

What constitutes blocking communication with the kids?

If a parent is consistently denying phone calls to the kids, they could be blocking your communication with the kids. That said, because we don’t actually know someone’s motive for not taking a call, we have to do some reasonable guesswork to figure that out.

Although your case may never go to court, looking at it through the same eyes a judge would see it through is a good start to determining if there is an issue. Here’s the theory and then below, we will get into the specifics of how to document everything.

Is there a pattern?

Take a look at the overall pattern over a year. If the custodial parent declines one or two phone calls out of 15 in a month, it might not be a pattern. However, if your co-parent is consistently only taking one call a week out of 5 over a year, and your court order allows for daily phone calls to the kids, that could be construed as blocking communication with the kids.

What is reasonable contact with the kids?

Contact must must be reasonable. “Reasonable” is subjective and is often a matter of argument between co-parents. Ideally, ‘reasonable’ is that parents and kids can talk as often as they would like. But life schedules and co-parenting relationships can make that unreasonable. So then what?

Your court order might spell out how many phone calls you can expect. It might also use that dreaded word ‘reasonable’. If you and your co-parent have a great relationship, having the word ‘reasonable’ in your court order might make sense. You can expect to agree on what reasonable means. However, if you and your co-parent don’t have a great relationship, you might not agree on what reasonable contact with the kids means. Entire court battles have been fought over what is ‘reasonable’.

But, while there is no single hard fast rule as to what constitutes ‘reasonable phone contact’, there are some things you can take a look at. Assuming both parents want as much contact as possible between the child and the non-custodial parent and that is not at issue :

  • Are the times of day you are calling reasonable given the other parent’s time zone and lifestyle? For example, if you are calling in the middle of the day your time but it’s the middle of the night their time, that is probably not reasonable.
  • Are the number of phone calls reasonable? Calling multiple times a day can definitely get into the unreasonable territory, barring an emergency. Repeating this multiple days would definitely be defined as unreasonable by many.
  • Pretend a friend told you that their ex called them at the same times you called your co-parent and with the same frequency. How would that strike you? Although it’s not a 100% apples to apples comparison because lifestyles and constraints can be different, it might provide some insight.

Are you calling for the kids or for your co-parent?

Your co-parent has no legal obligation to talk to you and they might not want to. So, another thing that can complicate matters is mixing calls for the kids in with calls to the co-parent. If, when you are calling for the kids, you are taking the opportunity to talk to your co-parent who doesn’t want to talk to you, that could be construed as harassing your co-parent.

More Ways to Help Determine if the Custodial Parent is Blocking Your Communication with the Kids

  • What does your court order say about phone contact? Is the other parent allowing the total amount of calls you should get?
  • Do you and your co-parent have a history of domestic violence? Is it possible this could be an element in their refusal to answer the phone?
  • Is there a current issue related to the wellbeing of the kids? If so, how might that be affecting the situation?

In summary, even if you are hoping to avoid court, try looking at it through the eyes of a judge who is unfamiliar with the intimate details of your co-parenting relationship and see what you see.

What to do when the Co-Parent is Blocking Communication with the Kids

Log your Calls

The first thing to do is to begin documenting every single contact or attempted contact with your child. This can be a simple spreadsheet. Try out this free google sheets spreadsheet contact log template. Make a copy and change it to suit your situation. Here’s a preview :

Every time you call your kids, record the date, time, and method (phone, video etc). For each attempted contact, record the outcome. Did you talk to your kids, and if so, how long? Did your co-parent fail to answer the phone? If so, what happened or what was the reason?

Once you have a few months of logs, look through them and try to suss out any problematic elements like :

  • What times are you calling? Is it during work hours or during typical sleeping hours (in their time zone)?
  • How often are you calling? Are you calling multiple times a day?
  • Do the times you get to talk to your kids align with your court order or should you be getting more time?
  • When you call, are you always calling for the kids or are you sometimes also calling for your co-parent?
  • Is your co-parent repeating a common reason for not being available?

Handle it without court

Once you have the data and have examined it for common causes, it might look to you like your co-parent is blocking communication. You may also find that there are more nuanced reasons for why your co-parent is missing your calls. Whichever it is, to avoid court, you’ll have to come to some middle ground.

This post on co-parent communication is a great place to start with how to address some of the common issues in communication. If you are Just. Not. Getting. Along. Well, that’s common enough too! This post has some practical tips on smoothing out your relationship. Start there to lay a foundation for the conversation you want to have.

Then it’s down to problem solving. Are they making arguments about an unreasonable amount of contact or unreasonable times? If so, taking their feedback and adjusting when or how often you are calling might do the trick. You might also be able to find compromises like for example, calls later in the day on certain days of the week might be more acceptable than other days of the wee.

Is their feedback that they don’t want to talk to you? One option might be to set up a monthly call with the co-parent to talk through logistics or anything else you might need to discuss with them and limit your communication with your co-parent to that window. Another might be to make sure the child has a device that you can reach them on directly.

Go to Court

Unfortunately, there is often no other option but to go to court. Here’s how to go about bringing this to court.

Build your Case

Back your phone call log up by getting copies of your phone records. Your cell phone bill may include a record of every call that was made. If it does not, contact your cell phone company and they can provide that to you. Go through your bill and identify each line item that corresponds with a line item on your record. You can highlight them or number them with corresponding numbers. Foxit PDF offers a free version of their software that allows highlighting and typing if you prefer to do it electronically.

Be cautious about recording phone calls and check your state’s laws on recording others. In the US, in some states, you could record the phone calls without your co-parent’s consent and they might be admissible. In others, it’s illegal to record someone without their consent, or it’s not admissible.

How much you need is hard to say. Gather evidence until someone unfamiliar with your situation would agree that there is a pattern of denying reasonable contact.

File a Motion in Court

Once you have your evidence, you file a motion in court in the state that has jurisdiction over the custody case. Every state has different ways to go about this so visit or call or look up the website for that state or district family court system to find out how to do it. Once you’ve filed, you will get a hearing date that you both have to be present for.

If you don’t have an attorney, you will either have to travel there for the hearing – or some court rooms allow you to call in. Check with that court system to find out. The court clerk can typically give you general information. Your other option is to hire an attorney in that court district who can do it for you. If you have an attorney, they can go to court for you and you often don’t have to travel there for the hearing.

At your hearing, the judge will listen to both sides and make a decision. The judge is making this decision purely (hopefully) on the evidence and arguments presented. Even if you are completely in the right, if you can’t make your case, you won’t necessarily win. What the judge says goes so convincing the judge is key.

Once the decision is made, if the custodial parent doesn’t follow it, you can go back to court and complain and action can be taken against them. But, even in that follow up, you will still need to have evidence and a case. So, if your co-parent is blocking phone calls with your kids, make sure that from this day forward, you document everything, even once you have a judgment.

Define reasonable communication with the kids

If your struggle with your co-parent has hinged upon what is reasonable, consider defining that with your court order. Specify what times or how often you want the communicate with your kids and have the judge speak to that on record.

Specific questions about a parent that blocks communication with the kids

Is there anyway to make my ex legally responsible to answer their phone when I call?


Although a judge might never tell your co-parent they have to answer the phone, a judge will probably enforce reasonable requests to talk to your kids. The challenge is making the case so that the judge can see what’s happening. Although it might be clear to you that your access to your kids is being limited, no doubt, your co-parent has a different story. Having strong evidence in the way of logs and phone records will help here.

Can I call the police if the custodial parent blocks communication with the kids?

In some in-person child exchanges, this might be an option. However, with phone communication, the police will likely refer you to the courts. The police really have no way of making the co-parent cooperate. Instead, that is more likely the domain of court orders and being held in contempt, when the court orders are not followed.

Is there anything I can do if the non-custodial parent is blocking communication?

If the non-custodial parent is blocking communication with the kids when the kids are with them, all of the above applies. Blocking a parent’s access to the kids is blocking the parent’s access to the kids whether the parent is the one with primary physical custody or not. However, if the issue is around parent to parent conversations rather than parent/child contact (your co-parent refuses communication with YOU), there is very little you can do to force them to engage with you. Instead, you might consider some of these strategies to resolve or work around contentious co-parenting communication.

Can I block my ex/co-parent?

That depends. If you mean on social media, yes! By phone, if you share children and your kid(s) don’t have their own phone(s) and/or your co-parent has no other way to reach you in an emergency, it would be unwise. It could even be a violation of your court order. If you have circumstances that require you to consider blocking your co-parent, it would be best to pursue a legal course of action to ensure your parental rights are protected.

How often should a non custodial parent call (what is reasonable phone contact)?

In the above article we get into the nitty gritty of what ‘reasonable’ might mean and it’s complicated. If you have a court order, it should define how often the non-custodial parent can call. In an ideal state, long distance parents should have as much leeway in contact with their kids as possible, given that in person time can be limited. As you craft your parenting plan, which will be part of your court order, take that into account. Always put the child’s wellbeing first, which definitely includes how much contact they have with their parents.

I am not an attorney and nothing here should be construed as legal advice. If you have questions about your specific case, please speak with an attorney.

This Post Has 18 Comments

  1. Rebecca

    So what happens when the only form of communication is via phone but their father keeps bashing me (our kids Mother) every time he calls!? he tells me to die, says vulgar things to me through the kids. I keep documenting the phone calls and i’ve asked him to stop several times via email so its documented but he keeps doing it. I want to block him and not answer his calls anymore. Is that legal? Our kids are 17months and 2-1/2. It’s crazy. He thinks im not giving the kids the phone. They’re too young to talk on the phone but they understand it’s their father on the phone. I never say a bad word about him to them. They’ll figure it out on their own. What are MY rights to protect myself and the kids?

  2. Carrie

    What you are describing is inappropriate behavior for either the custodial or non custodial parent.  I’m not an attorney and I can’t give you legal advice. That said, in order to do anything, you first have to have proof that it’s happening.  Document it, collect proof.  Then either follow up by pursuing custody or visitation changes through your custody case, or if there is an imminent threat, with your local police department.  

    I wouldn’t advise blocking his calls unless you’ve gone to court to ask the judge if that is ok.  The post you are responding to is about exactly that situation.  Blocking the non custodial parent’s access to the kids is not legal unless a judge has said it’s ok – nor is it necessarily good for the kids.  

  3. Steven A. Arena Jr.

    Hello I’m a 27 year old father of a 6 year old little boy. I live in Brooklyn NY he lives in Daytona FL his mother is court ordered to have him call me at least once every other day. I’m a phlebotomist and my hours vary. If I do not answer or can not talk she reblocks me for another 2 days. I’m included in nothing that goes on my sons life she informs me of nothing and actually told the judge she goes through every loop possible and asks for every favor possible to not include me and has said she wishes I wasn’t Jaidens dad. I’m on here trying to find out what I have to legally do in order for her not to be allowed to keep me blocked. I bought my son his own iPhone 6s but his mother also will not allow him to have it at her house. I’m out of ideas.

    1. Kryss

      Im having the same issue…my twins are just 20months amd its already hectic as a single mother so i dont have time for video calls

  4. Robby

    Hi, I bought an iPad for my 8 yr old daughter who lives in another state. The iPad has data usage so I do not have to depend on her mother to have wifi. Last summer when she came to visit me I allowed them access to the iPad as well. I pay for the iPad monthly and have not asked them to help pay. This summer I have debated on blocking the family in the other state due to the mother not making sure the iPad is charged or helping me contact my child when the iPad is off. The mother has stated the iPad is not her responsibility. I have told my daughter she can call or FaceTime her family anytime from my phone just not the iPad. Will this look bad on me in court? I want to do the right thing. I have told her mother she can call anytime as well on my phone and FaceTime.

    1. Jmw34

      Hey, similar situation. My son is 500 miles away. I work and go to school full time so weekend visits are just not possible. I get him for holidays and 42 days in the summer. Bought him an iPad a few years ago and his mother strictly limits it to the 3 hours a week that she is legally required to make him available for. He is 8. How I have handled this situation is by telling him that he can talk to his mother whenever he wants when he is with me. Because she is his mom. And it isn’t setting a good example for how life would be like with me. It isn’t right to keep a child from the other parent. It isn’t good for the kid. My issue is that he sneak face times me after his bedtime and I am completely conflicted because his mother isn’t a warm or loving person and I don’t want him to feel unloved. But I also don’t want him to feel like if he had to choose he would pick his mother because at least he knows he can sneak contact with me. Why I say this is because his mother is not attentive. I had him the past 7 weeks and his mother talked to him twice. So I feel she is setting it up in his mind that if he lives with me than he will never see her again. I’m sorry if this veered off topic a little but I was hoping sharing this with someone with a similar issue would possibly help.

      1. Robby

        Same situation, when she is with me for 7 weeks in the summer her mother never calls. My daughter and I facetimed all the time, she enjoyed doing her homework with me over the iPad. I surprised my daughter with a Disney trip and when we returned she wouldn’t contact me at all on iPad. My 8 year old then gave me the iPad back and told me it stresses her out. I’m so thrown back my this, not sure what she is being told. It hurts, I would never be vindictive even though it is hard not to.

        1. Laura Richardson

          Hi Robbie , Your lucky at least you get facetime with your daughter I don’t even get that. I get told that they don’t have a phone and internet . The stepmom is really nasty to me and my daughter’s the things that she sends me on FB messenger are just unbelievable I could never talk to someone the way she talks to me and my children .I’m wondering if I can use any of that against my ex when I file the motion to petition the court for remodification ? I need to see my girls and they need me I have no idea how to fill out all these forms b I know that I need to see them .Have any suggestions?

  5. Melissa

    My exhusband has primary custody of our 7 year old daughter. In our agreement, it says that I am allowed to call every night at 7:30 with no specification on how I am to contact her. I call and he doesn’t answer. I call multiple times a night and get nothing. I trying calling his wife and get told not to contact her. And they won’t give me thier house number. I am lucky to talk to her once a week. Then when she asks to call me, she is told if I wanted to talk to her I would call or that it’s not thier job to call me, it’s my job to call her. I’m at my wits end!

    1. Diana Muniz

      You can file a motion for Contempt! If it’s stated in the agreement and he doesn’t abide. He will get in trouble.

  6. WolfMom

    Hi Rebekah ,I know exactly how you feel my ex has our two teenage daughters and they live in Fla we have what Fla calls shared parental responsibility anyway they live with him the divorce States that I am to have telephonic communic ation with my girls t all times well he refuses to do that he got remarried and his current wife now thinks she has control over when I can see and talk talk to my girls .She has threatened me by telling me to give up my rights because I don’t pay my court ordered child support and that my girls hate me and want nothing t do with me. She tells me that she is on all paperwork that pertains to the girls which I believe is illegal because the divorce says that my ex and I are to make all major decisionsthe girls ie medical,school,ect. They refuse to let me see or talk to them they threaten them if they try to talk to me my girls self harm themselves because of the environment they are in .I got a legal aid Atty she is useless she tells me t”hat I have to prove that it’s in the best interest of the girls that I get to see them and modify visitation and time sharing. If you have any ideas I would love to hear them I miss my girls very much I love them more than anything and I feel like failed them as a Mom There birthdays are next week and I can’t even be with them.My heart breaks I wake up crying because of the dreams I have about them. Im hoping maybe we can help each other I can relate completely to what you are going through and I am here if you want to talk. Laura

    1. Denali

      I am dealing with the exact situation. We even live in TJE same state and I haven’t spoke with my babies in months and months. Pool Cal and am told that these re at grandmas and when I call her she say they are with their dad. It’s Mt daughters 13th birthday TODAY and I called and texted and was told to ask child support of I wanted to see or talk with them. I’m a wreck and dreaming them every night. Thwybare made to feel as if they are bad for bringing me up or missing me and only get positive attention of they act like they hate me. I’ve done nothing wrong GB others then not pay child support and I missed court. hes hateful and ignorant and I send money via money order to his moms and never get a responce. I hope that Thinhs have gotten better for u. Plz help me im a mess and wud do anything

  7. Anna-Lisa

    what about when both parents share 50-50% custody but one parent has blocked all calls from the father and his side of the family? is this legal?

  8. Christine

    Hi…
    I have a question…
    I live in NJ and my daughters father lives in Florida… He hasn’t seen our daughter in 10 years and is only paying half of the amount monthly for child support…
    We have no Communication at all…
    Does he have to supply me with his phone number???

    Thanks

  9. Mjsquatch

    Here is another twist on custodial phone call issues. My wife obtained a restraining order on me and I get 4 calls a week. The kids are 10 and 12, so usually I look forward to this.
    About a month ago the ex starts answering nearly every time. She had not been for the first three months. I just simply ask for my kids by name. I don’t know what the motive is. My lawyer didn’t say much other than to approve of my handling it.
    Anyone else have thoughts on this?

  10. Ryan Lucio

    I could really use some advice. I’m not very good with dealing with this sort of thing, and I have a complicated situation. I have been an absentee noncustodial parent. We were not married, and it didn’t go well. We split up due to financial problems, and I couldnt provide for even myself and I knew I couldn’t be there for her or my daughter. I’ve had a patchy work history, and stability is difficult to achieve, but I am something like stable now. I live in Florida, my daughter and her mother live in Mississippi, and the child support order was served in Alabama. She claims she did not ask for it but the state persued it to continue Medicaid benefits. During this time it has been very difficult to even get a phone call to talk to my daughter, I haven’t always had a place to stay, but when i was able to call, I have had very little success in actually talking to my child. Most the time she simply ignores my messages and request to speak with her, or my daughter, and her family has been very unpleasant to her when she does which causes her stress, and makes her that much less likely to even accept my calls. At this point I have a decent phone, and she has a computer, and we could easily use FaceTime, but she won’t even let me see her. The last time I was able to successfully talk to my daughter or her mother was February. Large gaps of unanswered texts or message is what I’m used to at this point, so it’s normalized and discouraging. Recently when I have called or texted it seemed like someone else had her number, and I have tried to communicate with her through other messaging services but she either ignores me, or has blocked me, preventing me from knowing about even the most basic things as the wellbeing of my child. I really don’t want to make any legal action, I can’t really afford it, I can’t travel to another state because I don’t have a car, I don’t even know what state I would need to start trying to do this in, or anything like prices on making the motion, or what an attorney might cost. I know I haven’t been there, but I want to change that, at least be able to talk to my daughter regularly, even just one agreed upon scheduled day and time a week or everyother just to start trying to be there, but it seems non custodial parents don’t really have any rights without actively paying to have the court grant them even the most simple thing as a line of communication to know that their child is happy and healthy. Any advice you can give would be greatly appreciated, even just somewhere to start. Thankyou for your time.

  11. Amanda Sanders

    Hi, I’m currently in a situation right now with my ex. We have been separated since November of 2020. We have a custody agreement in place that was established when our daughter was 4 months old she is now almost six. We have never followed this custody agreement reason being is because a week after it was filed we had moved back in together and reconciled and remain together for six long years. Even after separating for good back in November of 2020 we did not follow this custody agreement because we were able to co-parent and make arrangements with each other on a daily basis with not an ounce of any issues. Up until about 3 weeks ago when it was announced that he now has a new girlfriend since that very day he has blocked my number from calling and this new girlfriend says that he is requested all form of communication and co-parenting go through her and his parents we are not allowed to talk. Anytime that our daughter is not with me I am forced to go through hoops trying to get in contact with her. I made to call this new girlfriend’s number or text or I have to go through his parents which are very hard to get a hold of a lot of times. I was just wondering if this is legal to do and if he is legally allowed to block me just because he doesn’t want to communicate with me and he would rather it go through somebody else? Any tips or info would be greatly appreciated

  12. Joe

    What if the ex works for the county we live in as a county treasurer and is close friends with the judge that handled our child custody agreement, also close friends with every other county clerk’s and sheriff’s dept? Since day one she’s made every effort to keep them from me going as far as lying to the judge multiple times just get emergency ex parté orders in put in place one after the other expires? I’ve had one of my lawyers even tell me that it’s difficult because the judge is known to bend over backwards for his “work family”. It’s been 5 years and I’ve basically thrown my hand up because there’s no progress gained with a spiteful difficult ex, her ties with the county judge, and lawyer fees.

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