In our practice, it is not uncommon to hear circumstances where children refuse visitation with their non-custodial parent. Regardless of why the child is refusing visitation, these situations can be awkward, tricky, and can add fuel to a fire that has been raging between separated or divorced parents. Therefore, if you are the custodian of a child who is refusing visitation, or if you are a parent whose children have expressed a desire not to see you, you should be mindful of why this is happening and what you can do about it.
Why Would a Child Say No to Visits?
Why would a child say no to a visit with a parent? Sometimes, there isn’t anything nefarious about it: kids may want to spend time with their friends or attend some kind of extra curricular activity. This is especially true of teenagers.
Ask any parent with pre-teens or teenagers. They’ll tell you that parenting can be hard. We’re talking hair-pulling levels of frustration. The simplest question elicits eye-rolls and groans, and you’re sometimes lucky if they share anything about their lives with you. When you add this challenging phase of their development with child custody orders, there is a possibility that disaster may ensue.
Unfortunately, teen angst is not the only reason that a child may refuse visitation. Children refusing visitation is not isolated to older children, as young kids are frequently known to say no as well. In fact, there may be other reasons, such as the child feeling a genuine fear or anger toward their parent; or it may be a lack of security, trust, and attachment to their non-custodial parent.
Unfortunately, there is also a real possibility that one parent is actively disparaging the other parent, resulting in the child turning against the other parent. This is incredibly unhealthy for children and puts them squarely in the middle of their parents’ conflict.
Take a Healthy Approach to Resolving the Situation
If your child is refusing visitation, you should first attempt to figure out why. This will be important should the matter have to go before a court to resolve. If you are on amicable terms with the child’s other parent, try talking it out. If the other parent is open to it, consider therapy for the child or even family therapy. It is critical to take a calm and measured approach to your child’s feelings, as acting in anger will not help the situation.
Seeking Enforcement of Visitation
If you believe that the other parent is withholding visitation or acting improperly to influence your child’s decision to refuse visitation, then speak with an attorney about enforcing your custody agreement or order. A court’s order regarding custody and visitation are based on the best interest of the child. While a child’s desires may play a role in a court’s order, the child does not have the ultimate decision-making power in these situations. Instead, a court will look at the totality of the situation.
New Direction Family Law
Your custody and visitation rights are amongst the most important legal rights that you have. Your children mean the world to you and the last thing you want is to be deprived of your access to them. If your children’s other parent is violating an agreement or court order regarding custody and visitation, you will need help. Contact New Direction Family Law. Our attorneys are smart, hard working, and experienced and will fight for you. Our team serves Wake, Johnston, Durham, and surrounding counties. Contact New Direction Family Law today at (919) 719-3470 to schedule an appointment or reach us online.
Sarah J. Hink
New Direction Family Law