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What Happens When a Child Refuses Visitation With a Parent?

Despite a court order setting a visitation schedule after a divorce, there are times when a minor child doesn’t want to go to the other parent’s house. If your child is putting up a fight about visiting your ex, you can’t simply let the child have their way, as this may put you in violation of the court order. However, there are actions you can take to rectify the situation while staying in compliance.

The first step is to understand the source of the child’s reluctance. There are many possible reasons why a child might refuse to spend time with a noncustodial parent. In some cases, it can be something as simple as the child missing their bedroom, toys or neighborhood friends. The child may find the visited parent’s home uncomfortable or restrictive. In these cases, there are usually ways both parents can make visitation more convenient and less stressful for the child. Divorced parents who have a cordial relationship with each other can often mutually decide to make visitation more flexible.

These adjustments are plausible when the issue is only as to the timing of visitation. For example, as children get older, they often have more commitments relating to school and extracurricular activities, which may sometimes conflict with visitation schedules. Even in these situations, it’s not a good idea to rely on an informal or verbal agreement. Instead, you — and the other parent if possible — should present your proposed modification to the court and ask the court to approve it. This protects you and helps you and your ex avoid any misunderstandings down the road.

However, the reasons for reluctance to visit may be more deep-seated, such as resentment toward the visited parent for causing the divorce or a dislike for that parent’s lifestyle or companions. In the worst-case scenario, there may be fear of parental abuse, whether emotional, physical or sexual. If the child is truly rebelling against the very idea of visiting, a more comprehensive approach is called for. Family counseling or even child therapy may be helpful or needed. If you and your ex cannot agree on such measures, you may have to seek court assistance or another type of dispute resolution.

If you believe your child is in actual danger, such as the other parent harming them in some way, it is time to seek legal remedies. A Michigan child visitation lawyer can help you prepare a motion to modify or terminate the other parent’s visitation rights. In some cases where the child may be at risk, a judge may order that visits with the other parent be supervised by an observer appointed by the court.

The family law attorneys at Shatzman & Shatzman assist individuals and families throughout Shelby Township and Chesterfield Township in child custody and visitation matters. To discuss your case, contact us online or call us at 586-800-3018.