Has either of these scenarios become commonplace in your house since your divorce?
Your 8-year old son drags his feet, whines “I want to stay home with you!” and complains about heading to your ex’s for his regularly scheduled weekend visit.
Your 15-year old daughter flat out refuses to go. “I want to see my friends this weekend!” she asserts while looking at her smartphone and texting.
While the drama unfolds inside, your ex is waiting for the kids and wondering what’s going on. Tension builds, and everyone is getting angrier by the moment.
So, what happens now?
Unfortunately, there aren’t any simple solutions.
As a custodial parent, it is your responsibility to ensure a relationship exists between the children and your ex-spouse, no matter how trying that may be at times. It’s important for children and teens to maintain healthy relationships with both of their parents, and like it or not, both parents need to work together to make this happen.
When a younger child doesn’t want to leave one parent for their visitation with the other, you need to encourage – and maybe even require – that he or she follow through with the visit even if they don’t want to. The decision of whether or not the child should visit lies with the parents, who are ultimately responsible for the child’s actions.
This consideration is important to remember because the adult parents are the ones who are held responsible if a child doesn’t visit as ordered in the divorce decree. If you do not send your child for visitation in a manner that follows the visitation order, you could be held in contempt of court.
With young children, the two parents are solidly responsible for parental visitation but when it comes to adolescents, the rules are more open. Most teens would rather be spending time with their friends than with either of their parents, whether divorce or married, and they are at an age when they have more control over their lives and their decisions. In recognition of this, the courts tend to hold teenagers responsible for their behavior when it comes to visitation. Unfortunately, this can leave the custodial parent with a rebellious teenager who won’t follow the visitation schedule and a non-custodial parent without a reasonable way to enforce the visitation order.
Determining Next Steps
When these things happen, both with younger children and teens, it’s important for you and your ex-spouse to consider the following when trying to best determine how to handle the situation:
- Do you both have a connected, close relationship with your child? If so, does leniency with regard to the visitation schedule make sense given your child’s age and their reasons for not wanting to follow the schedule?
- Do you let your children have a say in what they’d like to do when they visit you? Would doing so more often help encourage the child the follow the schedule?
- Do you frequently yell, complain, or speak negatively in the presence of your child? Could this be impacting your child’s desire to follow the visitation schedule?
- Do you often cancel visits, are late for visits or forget to participate in special events like birthdays, school performances, or athletic games your child is involved with? Could this be impacting your child’s desire to follow the schedule?
- Is the schedule confusing or difficult for the child to follow? Would a different schedule better meet the child’s best interests and needs?
- Do you allow your teenage child to bring a friend along when going out for lunch or dinner or another activity? Would this help your teenage child be more excited to follow the schedule?
Every family dynamic is different, and these are just a few of the considerations you and your ex-spouse should consider when determining how to handle the situation of a child refusing to follow a visitation schedule. The most important thing is that you and your ex-spouse maintain open communication to work through the problem together. Despite the pain, anger, and sadness that may have resulted in your divorce, both parents need to stand together and encourage children to follow the visitation schedule.
However, if one or both parents believes that the visitation schedule is no longer in the child’s best interests, it may also be worth discussing modifying the parenting time schedule to better meet the child’s needs. Consulting with an attorney to discuss the likelihood of achieving a modification is a good place to start.
Contact Laura Monty Law
If you or your spouse will be filing for divorce in Northern Colorado or reside in the Larimer County or Fort Collins region, and want to explore divorce options that protect your children as much as possible, do not hesitate to contact Laura Monty Law. We provide collaborative divorce representation, divorce mediation services, legal advising for uncontested divorces, and a full array of traditional, court-based divorce and family law services in Northern Colorado. We strongly believe in taking a compassionate approach to family law, and recognize that every situation is unique.