What to Do When Your Child Doesn’t Want to Visit the Other Parent?
Whether you’ve cleared the hurdles of divorce or have negotiated your way through a custody arrangement you and your ex can live with, the potential for child custody problems still remains. In some cases, it’s a parent who wants full custodial rights and new modified terms or to bring their children with them as they relocate to another state or country.
These types of child custody issues aren’t all that uncommon, and there are many options for enforcing existing orders, modifying custody agreements, and devising new schedules or solutions to ensure compliance with court orders.
They also tend to concern what’s going on between two parents, which begs the question: what happens when a child is the one who doesn’t want to comply with court-ordered visitation.
Custody & The Will of Children
In terms of family law cases, courts typically hold that visitation schedules are legally binding court orders. Of course, that means parents need to comply or face penalties and loss of privileges. However, Texas Family Law judges also expect children to comply with the orders as well.
For custodial parents, and even for non-custodial parents, this creates problems. Though the will of children isn’t always easy to deal with, in the eyes of the law, a child refusing to comply with visitation doesn’t let the custodial parent off the hook. In fact, they can be held responsible for failure to comply – though there are ways to address or justify the matter.
Texas Courts & Passive Contempt
Contempt generally means a failure to comply with court orders. In Texas, parents can potentially be held in contempt when unwilling children cause them to violate custody agreements.
However, Texas parents have argued to courts that they did all they reasonably could to comply, such as by showing they:
- Prepared themselves and the child to leave
- Took steps to bring the child to the other parent; and
- The child refused to stay with the parent who had rights to possession and access (visitation).
Generally, getting a child on the porch and ready to go, so to speak, could be enough to prove a parent fulfilled their requirement to encourage or “tender” the child.
Texas courts have been split on these cases, which happen fairly frequently. In some, courts have ruled that parents can be held in a type of “passive contempt,” while others have disagreed and found that parents who attempted to fulfill visitation obligations met their duty. Still, others have ruled that custodial parents have an obligation to, in essence, drag their children to the other parent.
Each and every family law case is unique, and your options are largely dependent upon the facts of the situation and the terms of your custody agreement. Though a personalized discussion with a family lawyer is important, there are some general options that may be available for both custodial and non-custodial parents, including:
- Modifying a child custody/visitation order (through a filed petition)
- Enforcing a custody order
- Work out of court to compromise and amend schedules (i.e. summer possession)
- Seeking a temporary order to compel compliance
- Seeking protective orders if unwillingness to visit stems from domestic violence, child abuse, or some other issue dangerous to the child.
- Allow for the opinions of the child (if old enough) to factor into decisions/court rulings
The ultimate set of choices comes down to making a child go or not. Both have their own issues (upset children, non-compliance) and both should be evaluated for solutions with the help of experienced attorneys like those at Hendershot, Cannon & Hisey, P.C.
If you have questions about a child custody or visitation matter, call (713) 909-7323 or contact us online to speak with an attorney.