What happens when your child doesn't want to visit his or her other parent? Even if you're faced with a visitation order that gives your ex-spouse the right to visitation, surely there must be an exemption if the child doesn't want to go? Before you give into your child's demands to stay home for the weekend, this is what you should know.
The judge can force visitation to take place and punish the parent that doesn't cooperate.
More than one case involving forced visitation has made the news lately and judges are showing that they are inclined to take a hardline approach to cases where there is no evidence that the children are endangered by the visits—even if they don't want to go. In some cases, judges are chastising the parents who may be encouraging the alienation between the children and the non-custodial parent.
In a South Carolina case, the judge held the mother of the Noojin children in contempt and forced her to pay the father's $41,000.00 legal bill, saying that state policy was to make sure that children don't become estranged from their noncustodial parents. It noted that the children's mothers failed to facilitate the visitation and encouraged the children to disengage from their father by doing things like blocking him from their phones. One case so exasperated a judge that she ordered the children involved in a case into custody and eventually into a parental-alienation program after they refused to visit with their father.
While every case may not be so extreme, your refusal to make your children attend court-ordered visitation could easily result in a citation against you for contempt of court—which can lead to fines or even jail time. You also run the risk that the judge could decide to change the custody arrangement and give primary custody to the other spouse in order to prevent the children from becoming further alienated.
You can go back to court and request a legal modification.
If your child has a good reason to want to avoid visitation with his or her other parent, your best option is to seek a modification to the visitation order. Keep in mind that you'll have to explain the reason for the request to the judge and, more than likely, your child will be asked to testify about his or her feelings.
You may also be asked to seek counseling with your ex-spouse—or your child may be ordered into counseling with his or her parent—to try to resolve any issues in a more agreeable way. It may also be necessary for the court to appoint a guardian ad litem for your child. The guardian ad litem acts as your child's representative, and will testify to the court on what he or she feels is genuinely best for your child.
Don't try to resolve an issue like this on your own. Instead, seek the services of a family lawyer who can help with your situation. To learn more, contact a family lawyer like Susan M Caplin.