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Can a Child Refuse Visitation?

Divorce can raise several issues for a family, especially if you and your former spouse have children together. When you decide to file for divorce, the court will enforce a custody agreement, which outlines several terms for your children, including child support payments, living arrangements, and, of course, visitation schedules.

Due to the emotional stress and relationship strain that accompanies divorce, some children may develop a negative view of their non-custodial parent, and may even refuse to follow the court-assigned visitation schedule. However, since the court enforces these agreements, a child cannot refuse visitation unless the parent in question poses a threat to his or her health and safety.

What Is Visitation?

All parents who are filing for divorce or legal separation from their spouse must create a custody agreement, either with court intervention or through negotiations with their spouse and their attorney. When the court dictates the custody agreement for the parents, it will create custody arrangements and other support guidelines based on the best interest of the child.

The custody agreement will usually assign one spouse as the primary custodial parent, with the other spouse as the non-custodial parent. The court will dictate which days the child will spend with the custodial parent, and which days the child will visit his or her non-custodial parent. This is the visitation component of the custody order. All parties involved in the divorce must follow this visitation schedule — including the children.

Child Visitation Refusal and Compliance

All children must comply with the visitation agreement dictated by the courts, and all custodial parents must make the necessary arrangements to honor this agreement. The responsibilities of the custodial parent may include transporting the child to the non-custodial parent’s home or another meeting place, ensuring the child has his or her belongings, and communicating with the non-custodial parent about the upcoming visitation.

A custodial parent cannot refuse to allow the child to visit the non-custodial parent during these scheduled times, and the child cannot refuse visitation either. Failure to comply with a custody agreement can result in contempt charges, which may involve jail time and other penalties.

There are exceptions to this rule. If the court determines that the non-custodial parent poses a threat to the child’s physical or mental safety, the child may refuse visitation. If the child is too sick or cannot make the scheduled visit, it is the responsibility of the custodial parent to inform the non-custodial parent as soon as possible and schedule a make-up visit.

What to Do If a Child Refuses Visitation

If your child is refusing to visit your former spouse or you have a child who refuses to honor your visitation schedule, other factors may be at play. Your child may be dealing with difficult emotional issues as a result of the divorce, and is expressing them by refusing to honor the custody agreement. In some situations, your child may be experiencing parental alienation — and may see you in a negative light because of a toxic environment at home.

If you are the custodial parent, take steps to document your child’s refusal. Ask your child why he or she does not want to visit the other parent, and carefully take note of his or her reasons. Notify your attorney and your former spouse as soon as possible to explain the situation, making sure to include why your child does not want to visit and what efforts you are taking to get him or her to comply. If you believe that your child is experiencing abuse or danger at the hands of your former spouse, talk to your attorney immediately.

If you are the non-custodial parent, you may want to talk to your child about why he or she is refusing to visit you. You may discover that he or she is having a difficult time coping with the divorce, and your support could help remedy the situation. If you believe that parental alienation is the reason behind the refusal, contact your Indianapolis family law lawyer as quickly as possible