Court ordered visitation and child custody arrangements are legally enforceable. If a child doesn’t want to visit the other parent, it puts the primary parent in a tricky legal situation. Breaking a court order could put you in contempt of court.
Keep in mind that it’s your responsibility to help your child foster a healthy relationship with their other parent. You need to focus on what’s in their best interest even if the other parent isn’t. Your child will benefit from a healthy relationship with both parents.
It’s best if you require that your child visit their other parent. If they are struggling at the other parent’s house, help them work through that when they are with you. You can coach them on how to communicate effectively with their other parent. The communication skills they learn in a gentle, constructive way will be important life lessons.
Why Are They Refusing?
It’s important to determine why the child is refusing visitation. Depending on the age of the child this may be easier or more difficult. Older children will tell you. A younger child may not have the capacity to tell you but throws a fit when it’s time to go.
In the case of a younger child, outside help may be necessary to determine why they are unhappy with the arrangement. A Marriage and Family Therapist (MFT) or Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW) whose experienced with young children and family law can help. An experienced family law attorney, like Boyd Law, will have a listing of therapists with the experience you need.
Most kids resist visitation at some point. It’s not convenient. Who wants to live in two households?
Create a Solution
If you can find out why your child is resisting visitation at the other household, it might be something that’s fixable. A heart-to-heart with the other parent is in order. This can be tricky if you don’t have a good relationship but you both have a responsibility to your child to co-parent. If you need to have the talk, keep the following tips in mind:
- Invite the other parent in a non-confrontational way. Something like “I really want to work together to figure out a way for you and Charlotte to enjoy your visits more. How do you feel about meeting me for coffee?”
- Have the conversation at a neutral, public place such as a coffee shop. You will both be on your best behavior in public. Pick a coffee shop that neither of you frequent so its no one’s territory.
- Remember that the conversation is about how to help your child enjoy her visits with her other parent. This is not the time to re-hash the marriage. It’s not about you and it’s not about the other parent. It needs to focus only on how to help Charlotte with the transition.
Tips for Transfers
Sometimes it’s not the actual visit but the transferring between households that cause the problem.
- Experiment with avoiding parent-to-parent transfers by employing a trusted friend or family member. Perhaps they could go play at a friend’s house and the other parent could pick them up at the end of the playdate. Or, each parent could pick them up directly from school.
- Going between two houses can be easier if they have what they need at each house without having to pack a suitcase.
Don’t Go It Alone
If you’re struggling to get your child to comply with the visitation orders and have been unable to resolve it on your own, it’s time to talk to an experienced family law attorney. The attorneys at Boyd Law have the knowledge and resources to help you navigate this issue without ending up in contempt of a court order.