In some circumstances, you may find yourself involved in a divorce or child custody case where you as a parent are faced with a difficult decision. Let’s first assume that you are a custodial parent with whom your child resides primarily. That means that they lived with you throughout the school year and had visitation with their other parent on the first third, and 5th weekends of most Months. Your child is much more acclimated to spending time with you and has expressed resentment at having to see their other parent. This has been an issue for some time, and your child has talked to you about this privately. However, now it appears that he is unwilling to spend the weekend with your ex-wife. So, the problem has gone from a hypothetical one to a real one.
Now let’s assume a second situation. You are your child’s noncustodial parent. This means that she stays at your home on the first, 3rd, and 5th weekends of each month. You alternate holidays with her mother, and your child sees you for extended periods in the summer. You have a great relationship. Your child has been getting closer and closer to you over the years, which has strengthened your relationship and is going a long way towards improving the quality of time you all spend together. Now that your relationship has improved dramatically, your child has expressed that she would like to stay with you for an extra week or two and not go home to see her mother. This runs contrary to your final decree of divorce that has you asking what your child’s abilities to refuse parenting time with their custodial parent are.
No matter if you find yourself in a situation similar to my first hypothetical example or are more similar to the second example with the noncustodial parent, do you can learn more about what rights your child has to refuse to spend time with their other parent. This can be difficult to find yourself in because it is emotionally difficult to hear, but your child may not want to spend time with you. It also presents a circumstance where court orders may not be wholly appropriate or helpful given your current circumstances. But that said, let’s walk through what it means to have your child refused to visit with or spend time with their other parent.
What can happen when your child refuses to visit with their noncustodial parent?
Your child could lose interest in or outright refuses to spend time with their noncustodial parent. We see this occur in situations involving parents with different styles of discipline in parenting. For example, if your custodial parent is last to have a disciplinarian and more of a friend to you, then your child probably wants to spend more time at your home than your noncustodial parents. The difficulty in a situation like this is where your child may not be of the age or make many decisions. We like to think that our children can make decisions independently, but whether or not to spend time with a parent is significant. Whether or not your child can even consider a decision like this is an important consideration to make.
Family court orders do not differentiate between situations where children can decide whether or not to spend time with a parent. Children are not giving a right. Did you do this explicitly? Instead, adults are tasked with making decisions that are in the best interest of their children, and it is presumed in Texas that decisions that the parent may somebody have a child or is in their best interest. However, that doesn’t mean that a child cannot exert their influence. Any parent can tell you that. Try to guide our children; sometimes, they make decisions that we disagree with and cannot necessarily counteract.
So, suppose your child does not have the right to decide on their own whether or not to see it, parent, that puts you in a tricky situation. In that case, if your child is sitting in their room and refuses to open the door to see the other parent, you will likely be in the position to communicate this information to your Co-parent. There is no plenty of attack or method for handling a circumstance like this. Technically, you violate your court order when your child is not available to your Co-parent for visitation. On the other hand, this is from no fault of your own, especially if your child were too locked in your room, and I will allow you to enter. So when you are Co-parent, there’s in the driveway waiting to pick up your child; what can you do? It’s not as if you can ignore them in action like Nothing wrong is happening. That parent expects to spend time with their child as is guaranteed in their court order.
The first thing that I would recommend to you is to maintain an open line of communication. While this may seem to be difficult and probably something that you or your Co-parent or both may not be all that interested in, trust me when I say that being able to communicate with one another about situations like this is credit incredibly helpful. Do not underestimate the importance of talking with your parent about difficult circumstances involving your children. Indeed, your child refusing to spend time with them would fall under the category of a problematic case. Communicating these types of problems as they are occurring is at the very least awkward. With that said, it is the least you can do. Not acknowledging the circumstances at hand is sure way too upset you go parent to the point where he may find yourself back in court sooner than you would like.
One thing that you and your Co-parent could agree to is an opportunity for your child to attend some formal counseling with a child counselor at their school or with a professional therapist or counselor privately. Man, there may be underlying issues in the family or your relationships that you may not even be aware of. As a result, this type of therapy could be used to allow your child to voice their concerns over various subjects that could get back to the root of the problem and help you to figure out why your child does not want to spend time with your parent at this time. Some people will be dead set against this, but others will be more receptive.
Another step that can be taken is to force your child to spend time with their other parent. This may be easier said than done, depending upon the age of your child. It is easier to get a two-year-old to do something than a 16-year-old. In some cases, it may be impossible for you to physically make your child do anything at this stage of their life. However, you can work with your child to ensure that they are aware of the consequences of their actions. Allowing your child to believe that that there are no consequences for their actions could be potentially Disastrous situations on many levels.
What your options would be from a legal standpoint. If your child is refusing to spend time with your Co-parent, you have some options in front of you regarding how to approach this subject through the courts. There is no guarantee that this is the only option or even the best option for you to undertake. However, we also know that Nothing can officially be changed in a court order until he would tend court and obtain an order approved by a judging period until then; you were only Working through informal negotiations that are likely temporary.
Modifying a court order regarding custody
If you are interested in modifying your court order to allow your child to spend more time with you, then there are some requirements that you must look into before doing so. For instance, you must first be able to work with an experienced family law attorney. I shouldn’t say that you must do this, but it is recommended given the problematic nature of winning many modification cases. A modification case requires you to show that a material and substantial change has occurred in your life, that of your Co-parent or that of your child, since the last time you went to court does this exit fighting a court order modification.
A family court judge would be looking to decide on behalf of your child in their best interest. Even if the judge finds that material and substantial changes occurred in your lives since the last time he went to court, that does not mean that they would then approve your modification request. It would still need to be found that the decision to modify the court order was in the new child’s best interest.
In this circumstance, it may be challenging to make an argument that it is in your child’s best interest to see their other parent less frequently than they do now. I could see something related to drugs, alcohol, violence, or any other significant problem with the other care Co-parent impacting this decision, but short of something like that, a simple answer of your child not wanting to spend time with their other parent may not be enough. For this reason, it is wise for you to speak with an experienced family law attorney before filing a case like this in which your chances of being successful may be pretty low.
What if your child refuses to spend time with you?
Now we can flip the situation to reflect a circumstance in which your child refuses to spend time with you. This can be a miserable, painful, and difficult circumstance to have to go through. Many people spend a great deal of time, money, and effort in a child custody or divorce circumstance to ensure that their child has an opportunity to spend time with them. In some cases, it can be a massive shot to your pride and sense of self when your child does not want to See you. If you have exhausted all our alternatives to making sure your child can spend time with you, I would recommend that you consider filing an enforcement case.
An enforcement case seeks to bring to the judge’s attention any violations of their court order. An enforcement petition is a highly complicated and precise document that would likely require the assistance of an experienced family law attorney. Otherwise, an enforcement case will be filed in the same court where you originally had a joint divorce or child custody case. This enforcement case would seek to tell the judge of each violation of the court order, the date the violation occurred, and the nature of the breach. This would allow the judge to assess the types of breaches and what punishments were justified.
In a case where your child refuses to spend time with you, a judge could provide you with a make-up visitation with your child. Your Co-parent would then have to go through the trouble of ensuring that no additional violations of the court order occur. Again, you should review your court order to ensure that the language reflects that you must make your child available at a specific time for visitation. It almost certainly will, but reviewing your final decree of divorce or final child custody orders is never a bad idea. The last thing you want is to move down the road towards an enforcement case only to find out that Your court order does not say what you think it does.
Another aspect of this discussion to ponder as a parent is your child’s age and their needs. A simple change to the visitation schedule may do a lot of good for your family. For instance, the standard possession order that sees your child spend the first, 3rd, and 5th weekends with you may not work for you all very well. It could be true that it worked well when your child was younger, but now that they are older and has their interests and activities, a modification to the court orders may be best for all parties involved.
You and your Co-parent can become creative in adjusting the court orders to reflect the change in your circumstances. But I find it works well for people if they take the time necessary to consider your family’s needs and what logistically works well for the free wall. It could be that the constant or near-constant shuffling of your child from home to home in their teenage years disrupts their schoolwork or activities to a large extent. In this way, their frustration may not be with you but would rather be with a schedule that no longer suits them.
Working to update this schedule to something that suits them better may alleviate many of the problems that you have been experiencing. At the very least, having these discussions invites a more open and honest relationship with your child, which is never a bad thing. While it may involve you hearing things from your child that you may not want to and even making yourself ponder doing Nothing and expecting your life to change.
There may not be anything you can do to ensure that your child spends time with you in the short term. It may need to be something that you meet with an experienced family law attorney about as far as learning your options, no matter what side of this discussion you are on. It is wise to get votes before you and choose which option suits you and your family best. Sometimes what works best for most families will not work well for you and vice versa.
Questions about the material contained in today’s blog post? Contact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan
If you have any questions about the material contained in today’s blog posts, please do not hesitate to contact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan. Our licensed family law attorneys offer free of charge consultations six days a week in person, over the phone, and via video. These consultations are an excellent way for you to learn more about the world of Texas family law and how your family circumstances may be impacted by the filing of a divorce or child custody case.