Virtual Consultations Available

Understanding Your Teen's Perspective

Divorce can bring about a lot of emotions and adjustments, especially when it comes to co-parenting. One common challenge many divorced parents face is when their teenager begins refusing to visit the non-custodial parent. Let’s delve into this complex issue and explore some steps you can take with empathy and understanding.

It’s a situation that catches many divorced parents off guard: your once easygoing child, now a teenager, is suddenly vehemently opposed to visiting their non-custodial parent. The distress this causes is palpable, leaving you, the custodial parent, feeling torn and unsure of what to do next. Rest assured, you’re not alone in this struggle– and there are ways to resolve it.

Reasons Behind Teen Resistance to Visitation Orders

Several factors may contribute to a teenager’s refusal to visit a non-custodial parent:

  1. Strained Relationship: If there’s been tension or conflict between your teen and the non-custodial parent, they may be reluctant to spend time together.
  2. Desire for Independence: Adolescents often crave independence and may view visitation as an infringement on their autonomy.
  3. Peer Influence: Influences from friends or social circles can impact your teen’s preferences and priorities.
  4. Adjustment Challenges: Teens may struggle with adjusting to the changes brought about by divorce and seek comfort in routines and environments they perceive as stable.
  5. Communication Issues: Lack of effective communication between your teen and the non-custodial parent may lead to misunderstandings or misaligned expectations.

Legal Considerations when Refusing Visitation

Whatever the reason for your teen’s refusal, and while respecting your teen’s feelings is crucial, it’s essential to understand the legal implications of refusing visitation. Continuously denying court-ordered visitation could lead to legal repercussions, including contempt of court charges for the custodial parent.

Family law courts prefer to see co-parents collaborating to encourage their children to spend time with both parents. If the opposite occurs, courts may view the parent who appears to be impeding visitations less favorably, even if it aligns with the child’s desires.

If visitation time is compromised, the other parent could file a Motion to Enforce Possession by Contempt, leading to a hearing where the non-custodial parent may be seeking legal and monetary sanctions for non-compliance with the possession schedule. 

Generally, judges will not be persuaded by, “my child didn’t want to go.”  In fact, judges often remind parents that children have to do a lot of things they don’t want to do – like brushing their teeth, going to school, doing chores and homework.  The fact that a child doesn’t “want” to spend time with the other parent is not sufficient to justify a child not spending time with the other parent.  

What To Do If Your Child Refuses Visitation

Here are five proactive steps you can take if your teenager refuses visitation:

  1. Open Dialogue: Encourage open and honest communication with your teen to understand their concerns and feelings. Identify the underlying cause of their reluctance and attempt to address it without involving the court. For instance, if a teenager simply prefers doing something else on the non-custodial parent’s weekend, a suitable solution might involve agreeing to a different schedule. However, if the teenager’s reluctance stems from deeper issues like a strained relationship with the other parent, counseling or therapy may be needed to resolve the matter.
  2. Mediation: Consider seeking mediation or counseling to facilitate constructive conversations between your teen and the non-custodial parent. An impartial mediator can help parents reach a consensus and potentially modify the visitation schedule to address the child’s needs and worries.
  3. Counseling: Courts might suggest or require counseling sessions for the child, parents, or the whole family. A therapist can aid in confronting and resolving the emotional or psychological obstacles behind the refusal.
  4. Modify Visitation: Explore options to modify visitation schedules to accommodate your teen’s preferences and needs. The court will always prioritize the child’s best interest regarding visitation modifications.
  5. Seek Legal Guidance: Consult with a family law attorney to understand your rights, obligations, and legal options in addressing visitation challenges.

At What Age Can a Child Have a Say in Visitation in Texas?

In Texas, there is NO AGE at which a child can dictate their visitation preferences. Instead, the court considers the child’s best interests when making decisions regarding visitation arrangements.

Although the child’s preferences and level of maturity are considered, they aren’t the sole factors determining the outcome. The court evaluates various aspects, including the child’s age, maturity, reasons for refusal, and the parent-child relationship.

Children aged 12 and older can voice their preferences to the judge, who considers them but isn’t bound by them. The family court judge listens to your child’s wishes, and the weight given to their opinion depends on their reasoning.

For instance, if the child prefers Parent A because Parent B is verbally and emotionally abusive, that carries more weight than Parent A’s house has more lenient rules.

Seeking Legal Support for Visitation Issues

Since the custodial parent usually can’t compel a teenager to visit as ordered, the court is unlikely to hold them in contempt for not complying with a visitation order. However, these visitation challenges with your teenager can still be incredibly taxing. It’s important to have dedicated legal support and guidance to ensure you always take the right steps for your child and family. 

At Hargrave Family Law, we’re here to provide compassionate assistance and legal expertise to help you through this difficult time. Don’t hesitate to reach out for support and take proactive steps to prioritize your teen’s well-being and family harmony. Together, we can work towards solutions that promote your family’s stability and peace of mind.