What to Do When Your Child Refuses Visitation
Noncustodial parents live for the days they can spend with their children. But what happens if you get a phone call or email from the other parent saying your child doesn’t want to see you? At Surasky Law Firm, we receive this question often. This issue is sensitive because the other parent may influence your child’s decision. Even if they aren’t, you have a right to see your children. Below, our family lawyer highlights some of the key considerations for parents when visitation is denied. Contact us today to see how we can help you.
Find Out Why Your Child Doesn’t Want to Visit
It is vital to understand why your child is declining to visit you. If there is some small issue, you can possibly fix it, or you might simply adjust the parenting schedule. Ideally, you will talk to your child directly—don’t rely on the other parent as a go-between. Call and speak to your child. Ask what’s up.
In our experience, children don’t want to visit a parent for some predictable reasons:
They have a conflicting event, such as a sleepover with a friend or date night.
They are not feeling well.
They are stressed from school and want to focus on their studies.
They are angry at you over some minor issue you aren’t even consciously aware of.
But there are some other, more troubling reasons that cause children to refuse visitation:
The other parent is manipulating your child to turn them against you.
The other parent lied to your child.
Your child has severe anxiety about being alone with you.
Your child doesn’t like your new romantic partner or step-children.
See if You Can Adjust the Visitation Schedule
It isn’t surprising that parenting plans eventually become dated. As your children grow, they will participate in more events, like after-school activities. They might also start dating when they hit their teen years. Many life events will conflict with your scheduled visitation.
One option is to adjust your visitation schedule. If the other parent agrees, that’s great. Find a time that works for your child’s new schedule, as well as your own. You can make an informal modification or submit it to the judge and ask for permission for a formal change.
If your child was just sick, you might ask for a make-up visitation. Maybe tack on a few extra days to your summer visit with your children or ask for an extra weekend. Your parenting plan should spell out provisions for make-up visitation. Take it out and refresh your memory.
Unfortunately, a modification or make-up visitation isn’t always possible—especially if the other parent is lying about you or manipulating your child. If you suspect either, then you should talk to an Aiken, SC family lawyer.
Discuss Enforcing the Court Order with an Attorney
Ultimately, many parents want to know if they can force the child to visit them. If you have a valid court order, then both parents must follow it. That means the other parent needs to make your child available at the set time.
You can try to explain this to the other parent. If they refuse, you can ask a judge to find your ex in contempt of court. A judge can punish the other parent for unfairly refusing visitation, which might include fining them, sending them to jail, or changing the parenting plan.
However, we recommend caution before trying to enforce visitation. Consider the facts of your child’s life and your unique experience. A long-term healthy relationship with your child is more important than a missed visit.
Request a Change in Custody
If the other parent is trying to alienate your child, then you might need to take more drastic measures. You could ask the family law court to change custody due to the attempted alienation. Judges want parents to try and work together for the good of their children. Parental alienation is a tactic designed to isolate you from your children through lies and insults.
Talk about a change in custody with your child custody lawyer. We can walk you through the situation and help you analyze whether to seek a change in custody. Some relevant factors are:
Your child’s age. If your child is 16 or 17, then it might not be worth seeking a custody change. By contrast, a change might make more sense for a younger child.
Your ability to be the custodial parent. Your own life might be full, and you really don’t have time to raise your children. You shouldn’t seek a change of custody if you didn’t fulfill the duties.
Whether counseling or mediation will help stop the alienation. Ex-spouses fight all the time, and sometimes these disputes blow over. But if you try to change custody, your ex could escalate the attacks on you. Talk about your relationship with your ex to your attorney.
Defend against Allegations of Abuse
Another reason your child might refuse visitation is that they fear you. Your child might be claiming you abuse them—physically, sexually, or emotionally. You need to take these accusations seriously. A judge could ultimately reduce visitation or require that it be supervised. You could possibly face other legal issues, like criminal charges.
Contact Us to Talk about Your Case
Surasky Law Firm has helped many parents get the visitation they are entitled to. Contact our firm today to talk about your options. We provide confidential strategy sessions and can represent you in court if you choose to enforce a visitation order.