Divorce can be a very confusing and stressful time for children. Many children have trouble adjusting to visitation schedules and may lash out by refusing to see one parent. This presents several issues for the custodial parent, whose responsibility it is to honor the visitation agreement.
Refusing visitation could lead to contempt of court
After a divorce, Florida law mandates that children retain regular contact and time with both of their parents unless there is a compelling reason not to. In other words, because child custody orders are court orders, neither the child nor the custodial parent has the right to deny visitation to the other parent. It is only when after a child reaches the age of 18 can they refuse visitation.
As much as possible, the custodial parent should make arrangements for the child to spend time with the other parent. Otherwise, the noncustodial parent may decide to take legal action and the court may find the custodial parent in contempt for violating a court order.
What if the child refuses to cooperate?
Because children are unable to say no, forcing them to visit the other parent when they do not want to can seem unethical. The first key step would be to talk to the child and figure out what is bothering them. Perhaps the child has a problem with the other parent’s rules, feels unwelcome in the household, or has other concerns about spending time there.
Involving the other parent or a child psychologist can also help. If the child refuses to cooperate after every effort is made, the custodial parent must document what they have done to prove in court. They can record every time the child denies visitation, their attempts to encourage the child to follow the visitation schedule, and any concerns about why those efforts were unsuccessful.
If the child is in danger or if the other parent’s circumstances have changed, seeking a child custody order modification or emergency custody may be possible.
The child’s well-being is of the highest priority to both the parents and the court. It can be harmful to their mental health to force them to do things when they are already undergoing a stressful circumstance. Seeking legal advice may help when the child feels strongly about avoiding the other parent.