Depending on their ages, they may not understand what divorce actually means or, conversely, they may form their own opinions about who was to blame for the marriage’s dissolution.
When our California clients get divorced, there are seemingly endless details that must be considered. Everything from who gets the house and other property division matters to who gets primary custody of the children, and who becomes responsible for spousal and child support payments.
The next step is to implement the changes. These adjustments can have a profound impact on children. Enough so that they may side with the primary parent and refuse to go with the other when he or she exercises their visitation rights.
The question becomes, can the kids decide not to go to the other parent’s house?
The quick answer is, no. No, they cannot. However, the question alone may uncover a deeper need. Here is what California parents should know when their kids resist visitation.
Children are Not Legally Able to Refuse Visitation
No matter how old your kids are, until they are adults, they cannot make their own decisions regarding where or when they go to school, what time you set curfew, or other important parenting directives. You are in charge.
Similarly, they cannot refuse visitation with the other parent.
Once your child custody agreement is in place, both parents are legally obligated to abide by the terms therein. That includes complying with the time-sharing and parenting agreement portions of the agreement.
Of course, there will always be times when kids simply cannot go to the other parent’s home. That could include when they are sick, at camp, attending important family events like weddings or funerals, or have educational or extra-curricular obligations the other parent cannot accommodate.
These reasons should be communicated to the other parent ahead of time, when possible, so their legal visitation days can be rescheduled.
You should never leave your co-parent wondering where the children are and why the custody order is not being followed.
Do Not Ignore Your Child’s Reasons for Refusing to Visit the Other Parent
If your child resists their visitation time with the other parent, it is important to understand why.
They cannot simply state that they do not have any friends, or other luxuries at the other parent’s house as a reason to avoid visitation.
If they have a legitimate reason — or believe they do — it must be heard. It may be a difficult conversation to have, but it is important to understand where this negative perception of the other parent coming from. If they are being subjected to a negative environment, or if their safety is an issue, it may be time to revisit the custody agreement inside the family courts.
However, if their reason has anything to do with your personal relationship with the other spouse, you must reassess your behavior. It is common for children to overhear details regarding the divorce that they should never have to worry about — like infidelity or dishonesty. This can turn them against the other parent and make them feel guilty for leaving the parent they believe to be the victim. This must be rectified, so their visitation can get back on track.
If you are on the other side of the issue — and are the parent who is being avoided — and you believe the co-parent is trying to alienate the children from you, this too may be a matter you can bring to court. Our skilled child custody lawyers in Los Angeles can help you understand your legal rights and options, starting with a free consultation today.