Do I Have to Force my child to visit the other parent?

Crying Child.  Can parent force child to visit other parent?
Child Upset at Visitation

This article assumes that custody and parenting time has been ordered.  In that event, each parent is legally entitled to be with his or her children during parenting time.  It is a parent’s duty to make their children available at the designated days and times.  However, when a child says “no” a parent may have to force the child to visit. 

This can especially become a problem as your child gets older and into his or her teen years.  Keep in mind that a child does not get to decide where he or she lives.  But as a child gets older, a Court may show more deference to his or her opinion.

This is unfortunately one of those times that the law may not be well-equipped to handle all situations.

Balancing Act: Compliance vs. Child Welfare

However, here are some factors that may influence the Court’s analysis:

  • The age of your child.  The younger the child the less compelling the objection.  As a parent, it’s much easier to force a young child to visit the other parent.  Also, it’s less likely the child’s objections are well-articulated and valid.
  • The reasons for the child’s objection
    • If the reasons are related to endangerment or damage to the emotional well-being of the child, they become more compelling.
    • However, if the reasons are more akin to parental preferences, it becomes more difficult to justify denying parenting time.
  • There is an expectation that each parent will encourage and/or force their child to comply with the parenting time schedule.  However this should be balanced against the welfare of your children.
  • In order to sort this out, check-in with your child.  Determine exactly what the objection is.  See if you can help your child with it, make sure they’re safe, and still preserve visitation.

Legal Issues: What if I Don’t Force Child to Visit?

So what happens if you don’t force your child to visit the other parent?  Please remember the following:

  • A Court order is being violated if one parent does not receive his or her parenting time.
  • You are exposed to criminal charges and a possible modification of custody if the other parent does not receive parenting time and the Court holds you in violation of the current Order.  Therefore, you may want to motion the Court yourself. 
  • Mediation may be appropriate with the other parent.  In addition, mediation is almost always required before proceeding in Court.
  • If that fails or is not appropriate, it may be time to bring a motion to modify custody or parenting time yourself if enforcement of the current schedule harms your child’s well-being.

These situations are often very fact-intensive.  If you’re in this situation and Court may be coming, I strongly advise retaining a family law attorney to advocate for you.

For other divorce or family law questions, please consult the list to the left or the FAQ page.  If you’re interested in retaining an attorney to help you, please feel free to contact my office for a consultation using the contact information on the left or the contact form on the Majeski Law home page.