What do you do when your child doesn’t want to visit your co-parent?
Maybe your child simply resents the schedule interruption caused by visitation. Perhaps going to the other parent’s house is boring. Maybe your ex-spouse and your child simply aren’t getting along. Whatever the reason, a number of problems arise when a child suddenly balks at their scheduled visitation.
No matter how supportive you may feel toward your child’s wishes, you have a legal obligation to the court to uphold the visitation order. A judge generally won’t accept a statement like, “My child didn’t want to go,” as an acceptable reason not to meet that obligation.
Think of it this way: You probably force your kids to do all sorts of things that they would rather not do, like attend school and do homework. The court doesn’t view this situation as anything different — even if it feels different to you because of the emotions involved.
If you don’t follow through with the visitation schedule established by the court, you could be held in contempt. Even worse, the court could decide that you aren’t doing enough to facilitate your child’s relationship with the other parent. If that happens, the court may give the other parent primary custody!
You do have options in this situation. First, sit your child down and find out exactly why they don’t want to go. If it’s a scheduling conflict, consider whether or not it’s time for you and the other parent to work together.
You can try to work out a more flexible agreement that will ease your child’s concerns. For example, you may just need to find a way to work around your child’s softball schedule for the summer to solve the problem. Just be careful to document any agreement through email and other means.
Your other choice is to seek a legal modification of the existing visitation order. This is only likely to be successful if there are serious problems. However, it may be totally appropriate if the conflict between your child and your ex is due to something like alcoholism, verbal or physical abuse, mental health problems and other major concerns.
Custody and visitation disputes have a way of quickly spiraling out of control, so aim for a proactive approach if you see trouble brewing.