We all know that in most situations involving separation and divorce, the children of the marriage nonetheless benefit from having frequent and regular contact with both parents. This often involves one parent having primary custody, and the other having liberal access including overnight visits where appropriate.
But what happens if the child doesn’t want to stay overnight?
This was the situation in a recent Ontario spousal support case called Bunce v. Peacock. The parents had one child, who was now 13 years old. Under a 2004 consent order the mother had custody, but the father had liberal access including alternating weekends, mid-week overnight visits, and entire weeks in the summer.
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However, in 2010 the boy indicated that he no longer wanted to do overnight visits with the father (and this was despite the fact that he still slept over at his grandparents’ and at his friends’ homes periodically).
The father asked the court for an order specifically giving him access to the boy that spanned overnight. The court declined to grant it.
Taking into account the fact that the boy had some health problems, difficulty with unfamiliar environments, and a learning disorder, the court felt that daytime access to the father – which would be frequent – was the best way to stay within the boy’s comfort zone. Otherwise, the court would essentially be forcing the boy to have overnight visits with his father against his will; this was not an experiment that was recommended by experts.
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