When the courts determine child custody in Washington, they always do what is best for the child. A child’s best interest is the number one determining factor in custody and visitation decisions. Unfortunately, the child involved does not always agree with the courts. Sometimes, a child or teenager refuses to see a noncustodial parent. Here’s a look at what might happen if you encounter this issue after your divorce.
If a child refuses visitation with the noncustodial parent, the custodial parent has a responsibility to encourage the visit and foster a healthy, positive relationship between the child and the other parent. It is the custodial parent’s responsibility to attempt to comply with the custody or visitation order.
Badmouthing the noncustodial parent in front of the child or discouraging visitation in other ways could lead to the primary caregiver being held in contempt of court for violating custody orders. In addition, the noncustodial parent could receive more parenting time or visitation rights.
This answer depends on the situation. There are various reasons why a child might not want to visit a parent. Some are typical for a child, such as not wanting to leave behind friends or the child’s room for the weekend. In this case, he or she can be forced to visit by the custodial parent. Other reasons for not wanting to visit, however, may point to a more serious issue.
As the custodial parent, ask your child why he or she is reluctant to visit the other parent. Explain to your child that he or she is not in trouble and won’t be forced to do something that could put the child in harm’s way. Get to the bottom of the issue to determine if it is something frivolous or serious.
If your child is refusing visitation for a valid reason, such as allegations of child abuse or neglect, a parent with a drug or alcohol problem, or a new partner that the child does not want to be around, you may be able to petition the courts for a modification of your custody order to protect your child from having to go to the other parent’s residence.
If you are struggling to convince your child to visit your ex-spouse after a divorce, it is important to give your co-parent the benefit of the doubt. Emotions run high during a divorce case. Dealing with a divorce is especially difficult for a child, whose life has been turned upside down. It is probable that your child not wanting to visit is simply due to feelings of anger, grief or frustration about the divorce in general, or a desire to make things more difficult for both parents to show the child’s dissatisfaction with the split.
As the custodial parent, it is your responsibility to get to the bottom of the issue – the real reason why your child is refusing visitation. If there is nothing threatening your child’s safety or well-being, you must put your foot down and follow through with the custody agreement. If, however, you believe something more sinister is going on, you have the right to request a modification of your custody agreement to exclude your ex-spouse, based on the argument that it is in your child’s best interest to stay with you full-time.
Requesting a custody modification requires submitting paperwork to the courthouse that issued the original custody order. You will need to support your request with evidence as to why your child should not be forced to visit your ex, such as proof of the dangers your child faces there. Until you are granted a modification, however, you must continue to obey your court orders or face legal consequences. If you need an emergency custody modification, your case will be expedited.
For assistance with a complicated custody case or a child that is refusing visitation, contact a child custody attorney at Cohen Family Law, LLC for a free consultation.