After you have worked/negotiated/compromised and finally agreed to a parenting plan, your child does not want to visit or follow the agreed schedule. If you are the primary residential parent, it is your responsibility to encourage and foster a good relationship between your child and the other parent. You are also under a legal obligation to comply with the parenting plan that you agreed to and has been entered by the court.
Why a child does not want to visit can vary greatly from not wanting to leave a video game at home to something more serious such as fear of abuse from the other parent. Factors such as age, emotional makeup, personalities, and other members of the household can impact a child wanting to visit the other parent.
To be clear, a child’s refusal to visit can be exacerbated if you have concerns about the other parent’s ability to take care of your child or about the living conditions of the other parent.
However, there are some proactive steps you can take in this situation.
First, it is important to remember that your parenting plan is also an order of the court and you are under a legal obligation to comply with the terms that were entered. If your child can express specific concerns, attempt to communicate with the other parent and address the concerns without court intervention, if possible. Also, try to keep in mind that a child may sometime try to manipulate a situation if aware of the underlying conflicts. Try to give the other parent the benefit of the doubt in addressing your child’s reluctance to visit.
Second, depending on the age of the child, if your teenager expresses a concern with the other parent, encourage them to directly address the problem with the other parent and try to work it out between the two of them.
If you feel that the reasons for not visiting are not being addressed either through you or the child communicating with the other parent, outside professional help may be considered. Although not necessary in every scenario, a professional counselor may be able to assist in getting to the reasons the child does not want to visit and some strategies about how to address those issues.
Although there is no magic age that a child can refuse to visit with the other parent, other than reaching the age of 18, an older child’s preferences may be considered by the court. In Tennessee, the reasonable preferences of a child 12 or older is a factor for the judge to consider although it is not determinative.The last option is to modify the parenting plan through the court if the child’s refusal to visit is of a serious nature and cannot be addressed through other means. If something has changed since the entry of the parenting plan that impacts your child in a way that requires a change to the parenting schedule, a modification action may be an option. If you have any other questions about your options, please contact Held Law Firm and we will be happy to assist you.