South Dakota parents voice concerns over visitation despite having court orders

Published: Oct. 16, 2021 at 3:30 PM CDT|Updated: Oct. 18, 2021 at 3:30 PM CDT
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SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (Dakota News Now) - Going through a divorce is never easy. After Michael’s divorce, he maintained a good relationship with his teen, until something strange started to develop.

“It went from us having a really good relationship to within 36 hours he cut me out completely,” said Michael.

He tried to continue the relationship.

“I did try going over on my scheduled times and try and force the custody order, but the police department sees it as a civil matter, and they will not intervene,” said Michael.

Now, he’s hired an attorney to ask a judge for help.

“For me and my son in counseling to see if there is something underlying, something that I’m not seeing,” said Michael.

Dr. Richard Warshak, the author of the book Divorce Poison, says a night and day change like Michael’s is not uncommon in some cases.

“They just vanish, because they’ve been taught that one parent is bad and anyone associated with that parent deserves to be condemned as well,” said Warshak.

What Michael is going through has also affected many other parents across the nation: Parental Alienation.

“A large measure of the child’s negative attitudes can be traced to the behavior of the other parent and sometimes people associated with the other parent like extended family,” said Warshak.

Casey Wilson, who helped organize the Facebook group Supporters of South Dakota shared parenting, says Michael is not alone.

“It’s more common thing than you think,” said Wilson.

Even when divorce papers spell out exactly when visitation should take place, it’s a struggle for some parents to actually see their own kids.

“Unfortunately if you go to pick up your children and your ex-spouse will not let you have them, the only repercussions you have are to get your attorney,” said Wilson.”The retainer fee right now for most attorneys in Sioux Falls is $3,500 to $5,000, and a custody battle can cost anywhere from $10,000 to 50,000.”

In South Dakota, child support and visitation issues are kept completely separate from each other. The irony to Wilson is that if there’s a problem with child support, DSS will help enforce things at no charge, but if the other parent blatantly denies the court documents for visitation, the other parent is on their own.

“It kind of seems like the money is more important than the children in that aspect,” said Wilson.

For parents going through an attempted alienation of their child, Warshak has advice.

“And so it’s important not to overreact. It’s also important not to give up having contact with the children. It’s important to hang in there, even if it means having a tough skin and having to put up with really reprehensible behavior on the part of the children,” said Warshak.

The child may be a victim.

“They’re sucked into this war where they essentially were manipulated to reject and to push away a loving parent,” said Warshak.

In the meantime, Michael hopes that somehow he can re-connect with the child he loves.

“I really miss you, and both I and your youngest sister miss having you come to our house, me talking to you, doing stuff with you,” said Michael.

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