What Happens When a Child Refuses Visitation?

Visitation is an important arrangement that allows a non-custodial parent to bond and maintain a relationship with their child as they grow up. Parents with visitation often fight hard to hold onto these rights because visitation may be the only way they can be involved in their children’s lives.

Because visitation can mean so much to the parent, it’s especially frustrating when a child is unwilling to cooperate. They may not want to see the visiting parent or go on an outing with them. The reasons why a child might not want to cooperate with visitation can be trivial, but sometimes they may be rooted in their parent’s divorce or custody dispute.

Here are some examples of reasons why a child might not want to cooperate with visitation:

  • The child might not want to be so far from friends or school.
  • The child might not be happy with the rules at the parent’s house.
  • The child and parent with visitation might have a strained relationship.
  • The child doesn’t like the other parent’s new partner or that they have a new partner.
  • The child may not have pleasant memories of the parent.
  • The custodial parent may be alienating the child from the non-custodial parent.

Each of these reasons to refuse visitation with another parent may be baffling or understandable considering the broader context. Nonetheless, when a child is failing to cooperate with the arrangement, the courts may need to get involved.

A Child’s Age Is a Considerable Factor

Depending upon how old a child is, the court will handle their refusal to cooperate with visitation differently. Before that, however, the court will assess whether or not the child is responding out of concern for his or her safety. Regardless of age, if the child has a credible fear that visitation could expose them to harm, then courts will proceed along those lines.

Assuming there is no threat to the child’s safety, the court will take their age into account. If a very young child is refusing to cooperate with visitation, it’s unlikely that the court will give much weight to their wishes. As they grow older, however, the weight given to their wishes increases. By the time a minor is a teenager, they may be granted discretion to determine for themselves whether or not visitation should occur.

Children Refusing Visitation Can Lead to a Change in the Custody Arrangement

The relationship between a child and their parent is another considerable factor. Courts are inclined to promote visitation for the non-custodial parent if they believe it’s in the child’s best interests to maintain a relationship with their parent. When a child has continuously refused to cooperate with a visitation arrangement for a long period of time, the court may interpret this as a sign that the arrangement isn’t serving the child’s best interests.

It’s at this point that a modification to the arrangement may become necessary. If the court still believes that having a relationship with the non-custodial parent is important to the child, then it might permit more visitation time or privileges. If the court finds that the inverse scenario is true, then the non-custodial parent could lose visitation privileges.

When either parent wants to address the child’s declining interest in the visitation arrangement, they must first file a motion with the court. The motion must demonstrate the child’s uncooperativeness and how the current custody or visitation schedule is contributing to the deteriorating relationship between the parent and child. From there, the court will issue a judgment either denying the motion or modifying the visitation order in a manner that suits the best interests of the child.

If you are a parent experiencing difficulty with your visitation arrangement – and, specifically, your child’s cooperation with it – we at Claery & Hammond, LLP may be able to help.

For more information about our legal services, please contact us online or call (310) 817-6904 today.