As a custodial parent, one of your primary goals is to promote a healthy and active relationship between your child and your ex-spouse. Abiding by a court ordered, or otherwise agreed upon, visitation schedule is a great way to accomplish this goal. Unfortunately, this is sometimes easier said than done. What should you do if your child refuses to visit their other parent?
Get to the Root of the Problem
You must figure out why your child doesn’t want to spend time with their other parent before you can address the issue. There are countless reasons why children and adolescents may refuse visitation, depending on their age, but these are some of the most common:
- They have separation anxiety and fear being away from you
- The other parent has gotten remarried, or moved in with a significant other
- Visitation is long distance (different city or state, or requires international travel)
- The child has not spent much time with the other parent (you were never married to your ex, and they have not been a consistent part of your child’s life thus far)
- Your teenager would rather hang out with nearby friends instead of see their other parent
- Your child claims they are being abused or neglected
It is important for you to get to the root of the problem as soon as you notice that your child is hesitant to spend time with their other parent. Reasons will vary on a case by case basis, but simply asking your child why can help you devise a plan to rectify the situation.
What can You Do?
In order to remedy this type of situation, you need to discuss the matter with your ex and your child. This can be done either separately, or together in an informal and comfortable setting, such as your home. Your child is more likely to open up if they are in a familiar and safe environment.
When discussing the matter with your ex, you should stress the reasons why your child is hesitant to visit with them. Do they work too much, and aren’t as attentive? Has your ex recently moved in with a new paramour that your child isn’t comfortable being around? What about a new stepparent or stepsiblings? Your ex may not have been aware of any issues, and can now implement changes to help make your child more inclined to visit.
Both parents need to present a united front while discussing visitation issues with your child. Your approach will differ depending on the child’s age. For instance, you may need to offer an adolescent an incentive to visit with the noncustodial parent, such as being allowed to have a sleepover or footing the bill for your child and friend to go to the movies. Younger children often just need reassurance, and the opportunity to communicate with you while spending time with your ex. A goodnight phone call is often sufficient.
It is important to remember that you and your child must abide by the terms outlined in the custody agreement. Children, regardless of age, are not allowed to dictate when they see the noncustodial parent. The Court will always prefer that both parties, along with the children, follow the stipulations set forth in the visitation schedule, however, sometimes a situation warrants a modification of the original court order.
In order to have a visitation agreement modified, the petitioning party must have a sufficient and valid reason for the request. A judge will not typically grant such a request just because your child doesn’t want to visit their other parent. Because a child’s schedule changes, modified orders become fairly common as they get older, transition to a more structured school environment, and partake in extracurricular activities.
Trying to file a Petition for Modification on your own is not recommended, as the process can be tedious. The court will only grant a modification if it is in the best interest of the child, so it is important that proper evidence is submitted prior to a decision being made.
Know Your Limits
As stated previously, you must comply with your current court ordered visitation schedule. At Brian D. Perskin & Associates P.C., we understand how frustrating it can be to try to force your child to spend time their other parents when they don’t want to, or are unable to do so. Parents are encouraged to develop and implement strategies to assist with helping to make the visitation process easier, you need to know your limits. Sometimes, after all else has failed, court intervention is needed.
For more information on visitation modifications, or to discuss other visitation or custody matters, contact the experienced team to schedule a free consultation, today!