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 each 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 a 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. Courts are aware that it can be hard to force an older child to visit the other parent when they object. This is particularly true once the child is driving age.
Unfortunately, this situation is one of those times that the law may not be well-equipped to handle.
Balancing Act: Compliance vs. Child Welfare
However, here are some factors that may influence the Court’s analysis:
- The age of the 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. In particular, this applies to situations in which one parent of more of a disciplinarian than the other.
- There is an expectation that each parent will encourage and/or force their child to comply with the parenting time schedule. A parent is still the “boss” of the child, so to speak. However, parents may need to balance this with the welfare of the children.
- Along those lines, 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 a parent doesn’t force a child to visit the other parent? Here are some issues to consider:
- A Court order is being violated if one parent does not receive his or her parenting time.
- The parent with the child is exposed to criminal charges and a possible modification of custody if the other parent does not receive parenting time and the Court holds the custodial parent at fault for this.
- 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 for the custodial parent to bring a motion to modify custody or parenting time. If successful, this would create a new schedule which incorporated the child’s preferences.
These situations are often very fact-intensive. If you’re in this situation and a court hearing may be imminent, I strongly advise retaining a family law attorney to advocate for you and your child(ren).
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.