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How Old Does a Child Have to Be to Refuse Parenting Time with the Noncustodial Parent?

Time with our children is precious, and parents will typically do anything to spend as much time together as possible. However, as children grow older this can become more difficult. Children develop a mind of their own and increasingly begin asserting their independence. This is a healthy part of any child’s development. Unfortunately, it can interfere with your ability to spend time together, especially if your child refuses to see you.

At Ramos Law Group, our Houston child visitation lawyers will discuss what options you have as your children age. You can legally enforce your right to visitation, though this might be counterproductive depending on the circumstances.

Legally, Your Child Can Refuse Visitation at Age 18

This is the legal answer. When your child reaches 18, he or she is an adult. Adults can decide who they spend time with. You will not be able to force your child to continue to see you. A family law court will no longer be able to enforce any possession or visitation clauses over an adult. 

Of course, at 18, your child might still be living at home with the custodial parent until he or she graduates high school. You might also still be paying child support until graduation. Still, this doesn’t give you a legal right to force visitation.

Some people incorrectly think that children can refuse visitation at age 12. Actually, the law allows children to have a say in who they want to live with beginning at age 12. But that is a separate issue from whether a child can halt parenting time. 

As a Practical Matter, Visitation Can Be Hard to Enforce as a Child Ages

When a child reaches 16 or 17, it can be difficult to realistically enforce visitation. Children at that age can become seriously disruptive and might even run away from you. Your child might also have a driver’s license and vehicle and be hard to keep track of for purposes of visitation. It is virtually impossible to physically force a teenager into a car for pick up and drop off purposes. 

The better option is to rationalize with a teenager. Try to pin down why the child doesn’t want to see you. It could simply be a matter of inconvenience. Maybe she wants to take a trip over the summer with friends when you are scheduled to see her, or extracurricular activities are getting in the way of your weekend visitation. It may be that there is a clash of personalities with a new dating partner and you can schedule time with your child alone.  If so, you might be able to work around and change the parenting plan if that makes things easier.

Does Your Child Really Not Want to See You?

Often, questions about children refusing parenting time arise in a particular situation, which is this: you are preparing to see your children for the weekend or the summer vacation when you get a call from the other parent. She tells you that your child doesn’t want to see you. You don’t actually speak to your child, you hear this only from the other parent.

In reality, of course, your child might want to see you but the other parent doesn’t want you to have visitation. Maybe your ex is angry you are dating again or has scheduled a trip with the kids and wants them with her when the possession order gives you visitation.

This isn’t really a legal issue, it’s a factual one. And the factual question is: does your child really not want to see you? Or is the other parent telling you this because she wants to strike back at you or because she wants more time with the child? This distinction matters.

Try to investigate a little. First, ask to speak to your child on the phone. Ask what’s up. Try to gauge whether your child is being honest with you or if he appears pressured to tell you he doesn’t want to see you. When the other parent meddles with visitation, you can seek contempt, which can result in fines or possibly even time in jail.

Enforcing a Visitation Order

If you want to enforce visitation, you should notify the other parent and be waiting at the drop off point for them to arrive. Of course, if they don’t show up, you will have shown you were ready and able to accept possession of the child. A judge wants to see that, so make sure to document any communications or attempts to exercise possession.

To enforce visitation, you’ll need to file a motion with the court outlining when you were denied visitation. You will also need to request relief from the judge. Relief is what you want the judge to do in response. For example, you might want additional time with your children to make up for the time that you were denied or attorney fees for bringing the enforcement. 

Consult with an Attorney about Options

Visitation disputes can be tricky, especially when your child really doesn’t want to see you. At Ramos Law Group, PLLC we advise mothers and fathers of their rights, but we also take a realistic view of the situation to see what choices make sense. To schedule a confidential consultation, please call our firm today.