Divorce and custody battles can be difficult for anyone involved, but they are even more difficult on the minor children of the parties, especially if custody and parenting time arrangements are in dispute.
Many times, the child may side with one parent over the other. Perhaps the child will not want to go see the other parent during the ordered visits. It can be very difficult on the custodial parent when his or her child refuses to see the other parent. However, what happens when a child refuses to go for visitation?
Custody and Visitation Order
A custody order governs which parent has primary and legal custody of the parties’ minor children, and the order also provides a weekly schedule for visitation between the children and the noncustodial parent. This order will include visitation on weekdays, weekends, holidays and summer vacation.
Once the order is signed by the judge and entered, it must be followed by both parents. No modifications can be made to the order without court approval, even though the child may want to change the arrangements after they are made. If one parent has concerns and believes it is best to modify parenting time, this must only be done through the court.
Understanding the Parent’s Role
When it comes to make sure that the visitation order is followed, it takes the involvement of both parents. The custodial parent must follow the order when it comes to dropping off or picking up the child, and if something comes up, such as the child being sick, the parent need not only inform the other parent, but must also work out a make-up visit. The key here is the courts want to see the child maintain a healthy and strong relationship with both parents.
When one parent has custody, that parent must actively try to foster the relationship between the child and the other parent, even if it is difficult. The parties are not together for a reason, and in many divorces, no love is lost between the parties. However, the parents must put differences aside when it comes to making sure that the child is encouraged to have a relationship with the other parent.
This rule is not necessarily spelled out in a court order, but it is implied that each parent will be reasonable in making sure the child is available to visit with the other parent.
Contempt of Court
If the child refuses to see the other parent and the custodial parent allows the child to control whether he or she sees the parent, that parent could face contempt charges.
The noncustodial parent could file an Order to Show Cause, arguing that the custodial parent is preventing visits from occurring. This contempt order can happen even if it is only the child and not the parent who is refusing the visit.
If the child is adamant about not seeing his or her other parent, it is important for both parents to work together to fix whatever problem may be causing this sudden refusal.
What should you do if this happens?
The custodial parent should document the incident as soon as it occurs when the child refuses visitation. Ideally the parents should work together to figure out what is causing the problem, but if a protective order exists between the parties, it is recommended that the custodial parent contact his or her attorney about what the child is doing. When documenting the incident, write down the date, what happened, what the child said and what efforts were made by either parent to have the child cooperate with the visit. You should also keep any text messages or other written communication between yourself and the noncustodial parent.
Sometimes it is a matter of the relationship needing some repair between the child and noncustodial parent. Parents are encouraged to work with therapists or other social workers to talk through the situation and do whatever is needed to mend the relationship.
The court will want to see that the parties tried to work together to ensure that the visits happen or that the child is able to express his or her feelings about whatever is bothering him or her.
If the custodial parent has concerns that the child is being abused during the visits and this is why he or she is refusing to go, then the party’s attorney should be notified as soon as possible. More than just mere suspicion that something is going on needs to exist, however. If the parent truly believes that abuse is occurring during the visit, then a request needs to be filed with the court to stop the visits.
The parent should not take it upon himself or herself to unilaterally halt the visits without court intervention.
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If you are going through a difficult divorce or custody proceeding, contact us today to discuss the best options for your case. Consultations are always free. Call us today at 323-333-4481.