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What Happens When a Child Doesn’t Want to Visit?

One of the most complex and emotionally difficult elements of divorce is getting the children accustomed to the agreed upon parenting plan that allows both parents to remain involved. Adjusting to splitting time between two homes can be highly stressful. Homework, clothing, and other valued possessions may be left at the other house. One home may be farther from school and friends or less child-friendly, and one parent may begin dating, which can be awkward for the children. So, what happens when a child doesn’t want to visit?

Parenting Time is Not the Child’s Choice

At some point in most cases of divorce, the situation arises where the child doesn’t want to comply with the conditions of the parenting plan. This can be highly upsetting for both parents and often makes the non-custodial parent believe that the custodial parent is negatively influencing the child. While it is important to stay attuned to your child’s feelings, it is equally important to make them understand that the parenting-time schedule is not optional. As the custodial parent, it is your job to require your child to comply with the court-ordered schedule by explaining that both parents love the child equally and want to spend time with the child. The parent deprived of court-ordered visitation can ask a judge to hold the other parent in contempt despite the fact that withholding parenting time might have been based on the child’s wishes. As a parent, you are responsible for your child’s actions and therefore responsible for adhering to the court-ordered parenting-time schedule.

Understand and Address Your Child’s Resistance

If the child continues to resent the parenting-time schedule, you need to talk with them and try to get at the root causes. Is it based on a sense of loyalty to one parent over the other? Is there something about the other parent’s home that makes the child uncomfortable? Does the child blame the breakup on the other parent? Once you have identified the cause, both parents can begin working with the child to address the issues. Outside counseling may be advised if the issues are particularly deep-seated. If the child’s resistance is based on realistic safety concerns, then you may need to establish this change of circumstance and request a modification to the parenting plan or possibly even a restraining order.

Teens Need to Feel in Control

Teens present a special case when it comes to compliance with parenting-time schedules. The courts recognize that parents cannot always force rebellious teenagers to comply with court orders. The court is unlikely to find a parent in contempt for not getting their teen to attend scheduled visits. This leaves it up to both parents to create an atmosphere where the child will feel equally welcome in both homes.

Studies show that children fare better when both parents remain involved in their lives. For this reason, it’s important to take a firm stance on complying with the parenting-time schedule and, if children resist, addressing their concerns to every extent possible. If you are struggling with getting your child to comply with a court-ordered parenting plan or have concerns about what plan makes most sense in your divorce, the experts at Harris Law Firm can help. Call us today or request an appointment online.

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