What to do if Children don’t want to go to Visitation with the Other Parent?

Once the Michigan family court has issued custody and parenting plan orders, you should do everything in your power to comply with these orders. Sometimes, the issue in executing a court ordered parenting plan isn’t an uncooperative parent, but a child who refuses to do visitation. It is usually in the child’s best interests to have a relationship with both parents, but there comes a point when you can’t force your child to attend visitation with their other parent. What are some options that are available to you to assist?

Reasons Children May Not Want Visitation with a Parent:

  • The child doesn’t get along with their other parent’s new partner or other children from separate relationships 
  • The other parent has strict household rules that the child doesn’t want to obey
  • The other parent lives far away from the child’s school, friends, and extracurricular activities 
  • Your child simply has never gotten along with the other parent
  • The child has resentment towards the other parent and blames them for the divorce. This can be an issue if you are the reason your child feels this way. Badmouthing your ex in front of your child is known as parental alienation, and evidence of this can be used against you in future custody proceedings. 
  • The child has an event they want to attend that is only possible at one parent’s household

Legal Reasons to Refuse Visitation with the other parent:

  • Parental incarceration
  • Substance abuse
  • Physical or emotional abuse
  • Sexual misconduct, including exposing the child to extreme sexual behavior
  • Parental kidnapping

Is withholding visitation against the law?

Unless there is an emergency situation, you should follow your court ordered parenting plan to the letter. Many parents assume they can withhold visitation if the other parent is behind on child support. There are plenty of methods to get a parent in arrears to catch up, such as wage garnishments, interception of tax returns and lottery winnings, suspension of driver’s and professional licenses, and property liens. Withholding child visitation isn’t on this list. 

There are plenty of other reasons that parents withhold visitation under the mistaken belief that they have legal cause to do so. You can’t deny visitation because the other parent doesn’t have a bedroom for your child at their house. You also shouldn’t withhold visitation just because the other parent is late or otherwise violates the court orders in minor ways. Don’t schedule a vacation with your child during your ex’s parenting time, as this isn’t a valid excuse to deny visitation. Illness also isn’t a reason to deny visitation, and you should alert the other parent if your child is hospitalized so they can attend visitation in the hospital. 

What Happens with Visitation if there is no court order?

Some parents choose to establish an informal parenting plan agreement without going through the courts. This works best when the parents are amicable and likely to follow the agreement. The drawback is that when the court hasn’t ordered the parenting agreement, the court can’t do anything to enforce it. Either parent can technically pick up the child at any time and go wherever they want. However, failure to follow an informal agreement can be used as evidence in a formal custody hearing that the parent is uncooperative in parenting plans.   

Do I Have to Force my Child to visit his Mother if he doesn’t want to go?

If your child confesses that the other parent is beating, molesting, or otherwise abusing them, obviously no one can tell you to send your child back into the arms of their abuser. Along with refusing visitation, you should also petition the court for supervised or no visitation at all. 

At some point, you probably won’t be able to physically force your child to do anything they don’t want to do. If you have teenagers, you already know this to be true. Courts will likely understand if you are able to show that you have attempted to comply with court orders, but based on your child’s age and maturity, you can’t force them to spend time with their other parent. The law doesn’t require you to tie up your child or drag them to force them to attend visitation. Saying your child refuses to visit the other parent works better when the child is 16, but doesn’t sound as believable if the child is 6. 

Strategies for Dealing with a Child who refuses Visitation with the Other Parent.

  • Find out why your child doesn’t want to visit with the other parent. Your child likely doesn’t understand the consequences of disobeying a court order. Asking why they don’t want to go, instead of simply ordering them to go, will give you insight into how you should best handle the refusal. Showing that you care and understand their situation could help convince your child to go to visitation. 
  • Document each time your child refuses visitation. Ask them the reason each time so you can list it. The other parent may bring you to court and accuse you of noncompliance with the court order, so you need to have evidence to defend yourself and your child’s wishes. The other parent may try to prove noncompliance on your part in future custody proceedings, which will hurt your position. 
  • Call the other parent when your child refuses, and try to have the child speak with the parent and explain why they are refusing visitation. The other parent may be more effective at convincing the child to cooperate, and that way the other parent can’t accuse you of intentionally disobeying court orders. Phone records and text messages are more difficult to dispute in court than word of mouth. 
  • Make pick ups and drop offs as stress-free as possible. Maybe part of the reason that your child doesn’t want to attend visitation is because you and your ex frequently argue during transitions. Do your best to hold your tongue and be the bigger person if your ex tries to incite you during custody transitions. If your child is leaving for an extended visitation, make sure their bags are packed and all other preparations are handled well in advance. Rushing all over the house and forgetting beloved items are avoidable things that can cause anxiety. 
  • Continue encouraging visitation. Don’t throw in the towel after one refusal. You should discuss your child’s cooperation with the parenting plan at times besides immediately before pick ups or drop offs.  
  • Remember that you are the parent. You are the one in charge, not your child. You know your child better than anyone, and maybe the soft, gentle approach doesn’t work for them. You may feel guilty for making your child do something that they don’t want to do, especially after the stress of a custody battle and/or divorce. 

herbert machnik Law firm may be the solution to your child refusing visitation.

After the stress of a custody battle, hopefully you won’t also have to deal with the recurring problem of a child who refuses to spend time with the other parent. If you do, it’s your duty as a parent to handle it in a fair way, not based on resentment and bitter feelings towards your ex. If you still have concerns about what to do with your visitation refusal situation, call Herbert Machnik Law Firm at 269-459-1432, or Contact Us Here, for your free consultation with one of our family law attorneys. Our attorneys have dealt with hundreds of cases where one parent or the other struggles with a child and the set visitation schedules.