When Can a Child Refuse to Visit a Parent?

The short answer is – when the child is no longer a child. Until a child is 18 years old, the Court can order a child to visit with a parent. While children often have opinions about how often they want to see the other parent, Courts reason that children are still children and do not always know what is best for them. Adults still make visitation decisions.

If the parents are unable to reach agreements, the Court will determine when and how often each parent sees the child. There are some rare instances when a Court will allow a child to determine some aspects of a visitation schedule. These situations usually involve older teens that:

    1. Are heavily involved in extracurricular activities that the parent with a visitation schedule does not properly support during

    2. The parent infrequently or inconsistently exercises visitation.

    3. The parent-child relationship is not close due to the actions of the parent.

Most of the time though, the child does NOT get to decide. Courts believe that it is in the child’s best interest to have a meaningful relationship with both parents and that frequent time with both parents promotes that relationship. The Court will consider all the evidence and testimony when making its decision, and if safety is a concern the court may even order no visitation or supervised visitation. If a child’s relationship with a parent has become strained the Court may order therapy for the child and/or the affected parent or even reunification therapy.

In non-jury cases, the judge may interview a child over 12 years old to determine the child’s preferences and reasons for the preferences. The judge may interview a child younger than 12, but is not required to do so. Most of the time these interviews occur without the parents or attorneys present and outside of the courtroom. Courts do not want the child to feel pressure from the parents or to be punished for the child’s preferences, so the content of the interviews is rarely released to the parents.

While the judge is not required to follow the child’s preferences, the judge will consider the child’s preferences if the child is interviewed. This may at least allow the child to feel that their preferences were heard by the judge. If the child’s preferences are well thought out, the judge may even follow the child’s preferences when the judge renders the orders.

If your child is refusing to go to visitation, it’s time to schedule a consultation with an experienced child custody attorney and learn what options are available. Robin R. Zegen has been fighting for parents who are looking out for their child’s best interest for over 30 years. She fought for her own children’s preferences to be considered. She understands the concerns as a parent and as an attorney, and will help you present a compelling case of what is best for your child.”