Coming to an agreement on conservatorship and visitation for minor children between two parties can be a major feat. However, what happens when the child involved suddenly decides he or she does not want to see one of his or her parents? How much say does that child have, if any at all?
Texas Family Law judges, for the most part, do not view visitation as option for the child. The visitation is part of the court’s order, and most judges expect that the parties will follow that court order.
Problems occur when the child absolutely refuses to go visit the other parent. Just because the child does not want to go, does not mean the parent is off the hook when it comes to ensuring that the visitation occurs.
Consider why the Child does not want to go to Visit the Other Parent
This situation can be upsetting for the possessory conservator’s point of view. If the child suddenly says he or she no longer wants to go, this decision can raise red flags for the parent. Questions as to whether the other parent is abusing or manipulating the child can often come to mind. It can be very tempting to take the child at his or her word and cancel the visitation.
However, it is important to look to the noncustodial parent’s point of view, as well, when he or she hears that the child does not want to see him or her. That statement can be extremely hurtful and can also make that parent question whether the other parent is trying to get the child to not want to see him or her. No matter how you look at it, this situation is a tough one.
Before jumping to modify the visitation arrangement, it is always recommended that the parent who has possessory conservatorship examines the situation to see what the child’s motivation is. It is possible that the child wants to see his or her friends or wants to be with the parent who has all of the cool toys or technology. Perhaps the child does not want to miss out on a friend’s party or some other event that is set to take place on mom or dad’s weekend.
Ultimately, the parents are the adults in this situation, and the parents are the ones who make the final decision. Both parents should be encouraging the child to have a relationship with the other parent, and this includes encouraging the child to spend time with the noncustodial parent.
The judge will expect each parent to encourage the child to spend time with the other parent. In most circumstances, the judge will want parents to work this type of issue out without any court intervention.
Many times the child will mimic the behavior he or she witnesses from a parent. It could possibly be that the child is observing one parent acting negatively when it comes to the other parent.
The child may also want to avoid upsetting one of the parents if he or she believes that spending time with the other parent will upset mom or dad. It helps to take a step back and reflect on how the custodial parent is acting when it comes to the noncustodial parent on a regular basis, as well as both before and after visitation. For example, if the parent is acting overly sad, saying he or she will miss the child, the child may take this behavior as a cue that his or her spending time with dad is hurting mom.
If it comes out that the child’s safety and welfare is in question when he or she is with the other parent, then it is recommended that the parent talk with a family law attorney about modifying the current order. The attorney can advise the parent on whether a court will likely modify the current visitation order or if other options are available to help resolve the dispute.
In some situations, family therapy may be a recommendation to help repair the parent-child relationship.
The judge may give some deference to the child’s wishes, especially in situations when the child is 12-years-old or older. Additionally, if the court wishes, they can conduct an interview of the child in chambers under Texas Family Code 153.009, although this option is not always desirable. Any time a child has to talk before a judge, even in chambers, can be a very stressful situation.
However, the judge does always have the discretion to interview the child and take the child’s input into account when determining what is in the best interests of the child, especially if the child is making statements that give rise to concern with respect to his or her safety and welfare.
Contact A Custody Lawyer Today
If you have questions about how your child’s input will affect your child custody case, please contact family lawyers at Scott M. Brown and Associates. You can reach us by calling (979) 318-3075. We have offices in Angleton, Webster/Clear Lake, and Pearland.