We finally have a clear statement from a California Court of Appeal instructing parents to not interfere with the other’s custodial time with the children. The Court also clearly stated that a court has the power to restrict a parent’s speech to promote the welfare of the children.
This is important because all too often a parent does not take seriously the court’s orders to not talk to the children about the litigation, to not make disparaging remarks about the other parent, and to not interfere with the other parent’s time with the children. This type of conduct by a parent, as well as not allowing the other parent to spend time with the children (before or after a court order has been issued) is often referred to as “gate keeping”. Parents must not be the “gate keeper” of their children, as this not only harms the children, but can be devastating in court for the parent engaging in this type of behavior. A continual pattern of “gate keeping” can result in a reduction or loss of custody for the parent engaging in this damaging behavior. If a parent has concerns about the other parent’s ability to care for the children, they need to seek court intervention and stop engaging in self-help measures, such as “gate keeping”. For the parent who is the target of the “gate keeping” parent, it is critical that this behavior not be tolerated. A court order must be obtained quickly to establish formal custody orders. Only with formal custody orders will the targeted parent be able to seek remedies from the court so that the damage to the relationship between the children and the other parent is minimized or even prevented. Courts are there for a reason. When parents cannot cooperate and agree on what is best for their children, court or other professional intervention is necessary. Self-help should not be used or tolerated. This behavior inevitably places the children in the middle of the parent’s dispute, which is never in the children’s best interest.