When can a teenager choose his own Visitation Schedule? What should you do if your teenager refuses to go to the other parent’s home as required by a divorce decree?
Many parents face issues with their children voicing that they do not want to go to the other parent’s home when the parties have divorced and agreed to a custody schedule. There is really no defined age at which a child can determine his own schedule.
If the custody schedule determines that the child is to go to the other parent’s home on a certain day, and the child states he does not want to go, what are the options for the parent who does not want to be found to be in contempt of court for failure to require the child to go to the other parent’s home?
There are instances where a child simply voices they do not want to go to the other parent’s home. The custodial parent should calmly ask if there’s any reason that the child does not wish to go which could be legitimate such as feeling sick and afraid they will throw up, etc. The custodial parent should ask the child about his symptoms, take his temperature and assess the situation. If there does not appear to be a valid sickness, the custodial parent should tell the child that the other parent will be advised of the symptoms, but the child still must go to the other parent’s home as that parent loves the child and is looking forward to time with the child. The custodial parent should first of all communicate with the other parent what is going on with the child on the custodian exchange date.
If the child continues to refuse to go, then this refusal should be communicated to the other parent. This communication should be about the child’s refusal, without any name calling or blaming the other parent. Approach the issue as if it is a joint issue that both parents need to help solve. It is both parent’s responsibility to adhere to the custody decree.
If the child continues to refuse to go, the custodial parent must advise the child that the custodial exchanges are every bit as important and a necessity as going to school. If your child does not want to go to school, a parent would only allow the child to stay home if he was demonstrably ill, and that he is required to stay in his room, in his bed and to rest, and that his phone and computer are not to be turned on until the end of the school day, dinner time etc.
If the child continues to refuse to go to the custodial parent’s home and he is not sick the custodial parent should advise the other parent of this behavior, and that the child’s privileges will be taken away from them for this disobedient behavior. That could include loss of cell phone, loss of gaming privileges, grounding etc.
The primary requirement is to communicate with the other custodial parent without blaming them, and to advise them what disciplinary action you intend to take with the child.
If the disciplinary action does not work, therapy for the child and the parent the child does not want to see should be initiated. The child therapist will hold the child’s confidences, unless the therapist is required to call Child Protective Services to report child abuse. The therapist will likely meet with the child several times prior to asking the parent to attend that the child does not wish to visit. The purpose of the therapy is to help communication between parent and child so that the relationship may be bettered or healed, and to help the child and parent with tools so each can communicate better with the other.
If a parent neither communicates with the other parent, or supports the child’s wishes instead of the custody order, and takes no disciplinary action towards the child, a court is likely to find the parent in contempt of court if the parent who is being denied visitation seeks relief through the court system.