Divorce is not an easy process, especially when there are children involved. The emotional trauma of seeing their parents separate along with sudden changes in schedules and rules can make children uneasy. While many will adapt to these changes, others have a more difficult time.
Whether it is due to rebellion on the part of the child as they lash out at the changes, or a deeper emotional issue that has the child unwilling to see their non-custodial parent, these issues can have lasting impacts on your whole family. The parenting agreement that both parents agree upon or that was ordered by the court needs to be followed exactly. When either one of the parents is no longer willing to follow or the child decides that they don’t want to comply, the consequences can be devastating.
In this article, the compassionate team at Alison Grant, Attorney at Law, outlines what parents can expect when their child decides they no longer want to see their non-custodial parent. This outline will include the following:
- Reasons why your child may not want to see their non-custodial parent.
- The legal concerns for non-compliance with the court order.
- Age requirements for the child to start making some of their own decisions.
- Steps parents can take to protect themselves and their child during this sensitive situation.
As always, if you are struggling with this situation and need clear legal advice on your side, the team at Alison Grant, Attorney at Law is here to help. We serve all of Lewisville, Texas, and the surrounding areas with all matters of family law, including child custody and child support cases.
Why Would My Child Not Want to Visit Their Non-Custodial Parent?
Children often don’t have much control over the situations that arise in their lives. When it comes to their parents divorcing and new rules and regulations being set up, this can be even more apparent. Unlike adults, children do not have the coping skills or ability to express or understand some of the complex emotions that arise during these difficult times. From frustrations regarding the change in their routine, feeling abandoned by their other parent, or even feeling guilty, your child is going through a lot.
Some of these deeper emotional issues may cause your child to not act like themselves or rebel against the situation at first. However, most children adapt over time.
When a child suddenly begins refusing to visit with their non-custodial parent, this could be due to the following:
- The child is unhappy with the rules that the non-custodial parent has at their house.
- The non-custodial parent doesn’t live close to their friends, school, or extra curricular-activities, or they may be missing special events to go see them, such as a field trip.
- Your child and the non-custodial parent may disagree on a wide range of matters, such as politics or religion, which causes a strain in their relationship.
- Your child doesn’t like the non-custodial parent’s new partner or roommates who live in their home.
While these reasons may seem like a huge deal to your child, they do not immediately impact their safety or well-being. Because of this, your child still has to go through with the visitations. Not meeting the visitation requirements as set by the parenting agreement or court order could lead to huge legal consequences.
When Your Child Is Refusing Due to Safety Concerns
Sadly, there are situations where your child may feel unsafe at their non-custodial parent’s house. Whether it is due to a drinking or drug problem, someone at the non-custodial parent’s house acting inappropriately, or any other situations that put the child’s safety at risk, you need to contact a child custody attorney immediately.
Your child’s safety is the utmost priority and a child custody attorney can ensure that you go through the right channels to end visitation requirements immediately until a thorough investigation can be done on the matter. This will ensure that your child stays safe and avoids any other emotional trauma that they may be going through.
What Does the Texas Penal Code Say About Visitation Orders?
According to the Texas Penal Code, visitation orders must be followed and are not optional for the child. If the judge ordered visitation, the orders have to be followed no matter what either parent or the child is feeling.
What Are the Legal Consequences for Breaking the Visitation Agreement?
Regardless of what reason your child has for not wanting to see their non-custodial parent, the custodial parent is responsible for making sure that their child sees their other parent.
The Family Law Courts in Texas are designed to ensure that the child is nurtured by both parents. They want to see that both parents are working together to ensure that the child has a healthy relationship with both of them. If the child suddenly begins to refuse visitation for non-safety concerns, the custodial parent is still required to make sure the child goes to the visitation. If the parent refuses, the court may not look favorably at the parent who is preventing the other one from seeing their child.
If the non-custodial parent has their visitation agreement compromised, they can file an Order to Show Cause. This would call for a “show cause hearing” with the court. In this hearing, the custodial parent will be asked to explain or show cause explaining why they are not complying with the visitation agreement.
The custodial parent can do their best to explain why their child no longer wants visitation with the other parent, but the judge gets the final say. However, it must be proven that the child is the one resisting visitation, and not the custodial parent manipulating their child into not wanting to see their other parent.
Is There an Age Where the Child Can Legally Refuse to See Their Other Parent?
Once a child turns 18 years old, they are considered an adult and have a greater say as to whether they follow the visitation schedule or not.
However, the court will also take it into consideration if the child is a teenager. This is because, unlike smaller children, teenagers have a better grasp and ability to express and think for themselves. For this reason, the court will look more closely at these cases when making their decisions.
What Should I Do When My Child Refuses to Visit the Non-Custodial Parent?
If you are in a situation where your child is refusing to spend time with or stay with the non-custodial parent, then you, as the custodial parent, have the responsibility of managing the situation as positively as you can. This can be done in the following ways:
Notify the Non-Custodial Parent of the Situation
Communication is the key to ensuring that a stressful situation doesn’t evolve into a catastrophe. Be transparent with the non-custodial parent about the situation and feelings of your child. Make sure you have documentation of every conversation, whether this means recording conversations or using text messages and emails. This will ensure that you have proper documentation that you did try to communicate effectively with the other parent about what is happening.
Some parents use the OFW (Our Family Wizard) Calendar to track parenting time. In this program, you can create a journal entry to document changes to the regular schedule, such as visitations, along with an explanation about what happened. These entries can be shared with the non-custodial parent, your family law attorney, and anyone else who is working with you on the OFW.
Encourage the Visitation and Talk With Your Child
Remember, regardless of how your child feels, you are still the parent. While this is a tough situation to be in, how you choose to handle it can not only influence how the situation is resolved but can also help your child.
You as the parent call the shots, not your child. Of course, there will be strong emotions concerning the situation and you may feel some guilt over it. These emotions are valid, but they cannot dictate what you do. Unless your child’s well-being is in danger, your top responsibility is following the parenting agreement.
Take time to talk with your child and hear out their opinions and concerns. Make it clear to them why it is important that they have a relationship with their non-custodial parent. Remind them that their non-custodial parent loves them and that it is vital that they spend time with each other.
Alison Grant, Attorney at Law Insight: Self-Reflection
As mentioned earlier, divorce is hard on the whole family, not only the children. While the court may be encouraging you to speak highly of your ex-spouse, you may not actually feel that way. Hurt emotions, a deep sense of betrayal, and a need for retribution may cause you to act negatively towards the non-custodial parent. While this is completely understandable and normal, it is vital that you confide in another adult and not your child. Behaviors such as badmouthing the other parent or interrogating your child about the visitation as soon as they get home could influence their feelings about the other parent. The child may try to protect you by refusing to see the other parent, or their view of the non-custodial parent could become so negative that everything they do is wrong to the child.
Always ask yourself about your behavior towards the non-custodial parent and make sure that any thoughts and feelings you have about them or the situation stays away from your child.
Talk With Your Child About Why They Don’t Want to Go
Have an open conversation with your child about their feelings and why they may not want to spend time or stay with the non-custodial parent. Let your child express their feelings without your judgment.
When it is your turn to respond, do so without making them feel guilty about their feelings and speak to them with understanding. Show them that you understand where they are coming from and that their concerns are being heard. Try to find solutions to help them work through these emotions, such as writing a letter to the other parent or getting them to go speak with a counselor.
Get the Non-Custodial Parent Involved
As mentioned earlier, communication and transparency are the keys to figuring out tense situations like these. Conflicts such as these are an opportunity for growth for both the parents and the child. Make sure you loop the non-custodial parent in on what is happening and encourage them to reach out to connect with the child through phone or video calls. This also allows your child to express themselves in a low-stress environment.
Depending on the situation, the family may want to seek out a neutral third party or mental health professional to help guide the conversation. A neutral third-party can ensure that all members are heard, all feelings are addressed, and all misunderstandings are resolved.
Ensure That Parenting Time Transitions Are As Smooth As Possible
Transitions between parents should be done as smoothly and as stress-free as possible. Before your child leaves to visit with the non-custodial parent or stay with them for an extended time, make sure that they have everything they need.
Keep the conversation positive when you and your child speak about these visits. Help them look forward to the time instead of dreading it.
During the transition time itself, make sure you stay calm. Encourage your child by reminding them that you will miss them but you want them to have fun and spend quality time with their non-custodial parent. Keep every transition short, sweet, and reassuring.
Find the Solution That Works Best For Your Family
The court may have an understanding of your family’s situation, but they don’t know you, your former spouse, or your children personally. It is important when dealing with issues with child custody or child visitation that you look for legal aid from an experienced family law attorney. Alison Grant has been faithfully serving the individuals of Lewisville, Texas, to ensure they find a solution that works for their families. She will be happy to speak to you about your case in a way that can be clearly understood and help you handle the overwhelming legal terms and jargon. Contact our team today for more information on our family law services or to schedule an appointment.
Visitation and Child Custody FAQs
What Questions Should I Ask Myself If My Child Doesn’t Want to See Me?
Some questions that can help you get to the bottom of the issue are as follows:
- Do you cancel or show up late to visit your child?
- Do you insist that your new significant other has to be included in the quality time with your child?
- Do you plan activities for when your child visits you?
- Do you interrogate your child about what the other parent is saying about them or the situation?
- Do you remember your child’s birthday or other special occasions, such as school recitals or sports events?
- Do you allow your child to talk with the other parent when they are with you?
- Do you show up or get involved in your child’s extracurricular activities such as sports, plays, etc.?
What If I Am Concerned About the Safety of the Other Parent’s Home?
If you have concerns about your child’s safety in the non-custodial parent’s home, you must reach out to a family law attorney and the court to seek intervention. They can help you modify the visitation schedule and do an investigation into the safety of the other household.
However, until a new court order is in place, the child (and parent) are expected to follow the possession schedule as ordered.