Anyone getting divorced probably knows to expect hard feelings with their former marriage partner, but many don’t realize that kids caught in the crossfire may end up acting out or taking sides. If your child is upset with their other parent and refuses to stay with them on designated days, you can find yourself in a difficult situation where you are forced to juggle emotional responses with legal requirements.
Am I Really Required to Force My Child to Visit My Ex?
While the court takes into consideration where children would prefer to live, especially when dealing with older kids, the judge may set a visitation schedule contrary to their wishes. Those court orders are binding, and failing to adhere to the schedule may put you in legal jeopardy. In situations involving children under 18, you as the parent are responsible for ensuring they attend their court-mandated visitation times.
That means that yes, you do have an obligation to abide by the custody order until a court decides otherwise. If your child is refusing to visit the other parent, your first step is to discuss the situation in a calm environment—using a neutral third party such as a mental health professional if necessary.
While that sounds obvious, it’s important to look for easier fixes to the problem before getting a court involved. Certain issues the child may be dealing with after the divorce can be resolved or managed, such as differing rules at the other parent’s home, dislike of your ex-spouse's new partner, long distances from the child’s normal school or circle of friends, and so on.
The problem could be something as simple as missing a favorite stuffed animal or not liking the food selection—which are easy fixes that avoid a court battle. Emotions run high when families fight, however, and these situations can be especially difficult for younger kids to manage. When you are stuck between a rock and a hard place in a situation when a child physically will not leave to attend the visit, be sure to always:
- Encourage the child to attend. If the court feels you are instigating the refusals and actively interfering in the custody order you could experience legal repercussions.
- Let the other parent know as soon as possible if the child simply won’t go.
- Document that notification to the other party in some way that can be referenced later in court if necessary, like a text message or email.
- Keep track of the visitation schedule in writing, including days attended, days missed, and reasons for everything.
Although you have a legal responsibility to keep up your end of the visitation schedule, if you suspect abuse or neglect is occurring, there are actions to take. When the situation is more serious than just frustration over house rules, an attorney can help petition the court for a change to the previous order. The court might change or remove visitation rights when:
- The home environment is unsafe in some way.
- The non-custodial parent is incapable of providing proper care to the child during scheduled visitations.
- The child is a teenager nearing 18 and doesn’t want to associate with the non-custodial parent.
Bringing your concerns to the court and attempting to work out a solution with the other parent tends to result in more favorable outcomes. Working with an attorney to explain to the judge why the child is refusing visitation is crucial to protect yourself from unfavorable changes in the custody situation.
Are You Having Trouble With Visitation Schedules After a New York Divorce?
Don’t leave yourself open to legal problems after your divorce. Talk to an experienced New York child custody lawyer as soon as you suspect there will be a problem with keeping your visitation schedule. Contact Alatsas Law Firm today so we can hear about your situation and find a way to help your family move forward.