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Specialty tag(s): Child Custody

Can a Child Refuse to See a Parent? What to Do if Your Child Refuses Visitation in Texas

Chandler Rice Winslow | June 25, 2024

Life after the divorce or a break-up between co-parents can be a difficult transition for children, especially as they grow older and form their own opinions. In most instances, parents have agreed on and/or the court has ordered specific periods of possession of the children for each parent. However, sometimes, children dislike the visitation schedule and refuse to see the other parent. If a young child or teenager doesn’t want to visit a non-custodial parent, it can be difficult to know how to react. Can a child refuse to see a parent? Or can a child be forced to visit a parent?

While it may seem difficult to “force” a child who doesn’t want to visit their father or mother to spend time with the other parent, there are legal consequences when a child refuses to attend visitations as ordered. You should also be aware of how the situation is handled for children of different ages: A situation involving a 7-year-old who doesn’t want to visit their parent may be handled differently than a 14-year-old who doesn’t want to visit their father or mother.

What Happens if I Do Not Make My Child Visit the Other Parent?

Can a child refuse to see a parent after the divorce? Generally, no. Regardless of the wants of a child, the court expects parents to co-parent and to facilitate and enforce the court’s orders for visitation. A child cannot unilaterally modify the possession schedule in a court order. If a parent is denied visitation with their child, even if the child is refusing to go, the custodial parent can be held in contempt of court for failing to follow a court order.

Whether a 10-, 12-, 14-, or 16-year-old doesn’t want to visit their father or mother, parents must remember that they are in charge and that it is their role to encourage the child to have a relationship with both parents, regardless of the guilt that parent may feel. A parent should listen to their child’s opinions but always work to promote the importance of quality time with the other parent if they have demonstrated the ability to act in the child’s best interest.

What if I Am Concerned About What Is Going On at the Other Parent’s Home?

When a parent has concerns about their child’s safety in the other parent’s home, they must reach an agreement with the other parent concerning a change in visitation or seek court intervention to modify the possession schedule. Until a new agreement or court order is in place, the child and parent are expected to follow the possession schedule as ordered.

What Can I Do If My Child Refuses to Visit Me?

When a young child or teenager doesn’t want to visit a non-custodial parent, you should still exercise visitation as ordered. Be patient and positive when dealing with the other parent and the child. If you believe that the child may be suffering from the effects of parental alienation on the part of the other parent, you could consider engaging a mental health professional to assess or help mend the psychological barriers preventing a healthy parent-child relationship. In some instances, filing a petition to modify a prior court order may be appropriate, which would allow you to request that the court order therapeutic interventions, modifications in the time, place, and/or manner of visitation, or the appointment of a parenting facilitator to address the family’s visitation or parental alienation issues.

What Voice Does My Child Have in Determining When They Visit the Other Parent?

In Texas, children do not have the right to determine who they live with primarily or what visitation schedule they have with each parent. However, a parent may request that the judge interview the child in chambers concerning the child’s wishes as to conservatorship, possession, access, or any other issue affecting the parent-child relationship. If the child is 12 years of age or older, it is mandatory that the court interview the child when the appointment of a primary conservator is at issue. This does not mean, that a 12-year-old can refuse visitation in Texas. But it does mean that if a 12-year-old doesn’t want to visit their mom or a 14-year-old doesn’t want to visit their father, the court must listen to why the child does not wish to visit. This is not the case if a 10-year-old doesn’t want to visit their dad or mom. If the child is under the age of 12, such an interview is discretionary.

How Does Refusal of Visitation Affect My Child?

When a child has frequent and meaningful contact with both parents who have demonstrated that they can act in the child’s best interest, that child is provided consistency and the benefit of an expanded support system. Although it may be difficult, it is important to recognize that the problems you may be facing today are just a moment in time and that building open lines of communication with the other parent, and co-parenting to raise your child together, will positively influence your child’s overall development. When you are facing the difficult situation of a child refusing to visit their other parent or a parent refusing to co-parent, it is important to engage an experienced family law attorney who will provide you with realistic options and the tools you need to ensure that your child’s best interests are protected.

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Chandler Rice Winslow, a partner at Goranson Bain Ausley, has been recognized by D Magazine as one of the Best Lawyers Under 40 for 2022. She was also included in the 2023 edition of Best Lawyers in America: Ones to Watch and selected for the Texas Rising Star list in 2023. Her expertise spans business and real estate law, and she has represented a diverse range of clients in family law, including working and non-working mothers. With a deep understanding of business dynamics, Chandler collaborates closely with entrepreneurs to distinguish between separate and community property. She is also highly regarded for her skill in drafting prenuptial and postnuptial agreements and resolving custody disputes.

To learn more about what to do if your child doesn’t want to visit their father or mother in Texas, please contact Chandler Winslow at 214-373-7676.

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