parents going over divorce

My Child Refuses Visitation. What Should I Do?

Parenting is tough, but going through a child custody battle is a different matter. If you’re keen to win child custody, hiring a family law attorney may be the first thing that comes to your mind. You also have to do everything in your power to explain your story in the hopes that the court will allow you to be the custodial parent. But if both parents are in a good position to carry the responsibility of raising the child, chances are, you’ll work together as co-parents.

Creating a visitation and parenting plan are requirements of a successful co-parenting agreement. You assume that this will work out perfectly until your child refuses to do the visitation. Although it’s not strange for children to express refusal to see the other parent, it’s important to understand that these situations have emotional implications on the child which may further strain their relationship with their parents.

Visitation matters are tough to navigate, even more so when the child refuses to visit your ex-spouse. Of course, it’s your job to act according to the child’s best interest, but you also want to ensure that the other parent still has access to your child. If you ever end up in this situation, here are some things you must know.

What happens if the child refuses visitation

When a legal separation happens, both parents should act according to the custody order, which includes the visitation schedule. This will determine which parent has the physical and legal custody and the time and location arrangements to visit the child. But what happens if the child refuses to follow the visitation schedule? If this occurs, expect that there will be some major consequences.

No parent wants to see their child having a meltdown as soon as they drop them off at their ex-spouse’s front door. Nothing is more heartbreaking than watching a child cry after forcing them to visit you or the other parent. These situations have emotional implications not only for the child but also for both parents.

Distrust will likely develop if a child refuses the visitation. For instance, the other parent may accuse that their ex-spouse of manipulating their child to not visit them. They may also assume if their ex-spouse is harming the child.

Refusing to abide by the visitation schedule comes with legal consequences for both parents. The judge may suspect the custodial parent of controlling the child to refuse citation. The other parent will also be held liable for wrong behavior if a quarrel ensues over the visitation order while the child is present.

parent with child

Why a child refuses the visitation order

If the child made it clear that they refuse to see the other parent, you may likely wonder why. In this case, the parent should understand the reason behind these episodes and understand the child’s opinion about the visitation order. Here are some common reasons why children refuse visitation.

It’s natural for children to develop a closer bond with one parent. They may experience anxiety and stress if they have to leave that parent to see another. Some may even experience a meltdown right on the visitation schedule.

Some parents manipulate the child to decline visitation and vice versa. A child may convince the parent not to let them go to attend a party, sporting event, or school activity. They may also exhibit strange behaviors to avoid visiting the other parent, such as refusing to eat or pretending to be busy.

Emotional and physical abuse are also other reasons why a child refuses to visit a parent. This has damaging impacts on the child and is tough to handle. If this happens, it’s better to discontinue the visitation schedule and seek the help of child protection services.

How to encourage a child to agree to the visitation

The first thing you should do if a child expresses their refusal is to talk to them. Find out the reason behind these episodes. Don’t simply order them to go, instead, learn about what they feel about the situation to gain insight on how to handle the refusal.

The second step is to document the times when the child declines visitation, including the reason. The last thing you want is to have the other parent bring the matter to the court and suspect you of noncompliance. Also, it’s important to notify the other parent about the child’s concern and have them speak to the child.

To ensure a stress-free visitation, make the transition easy for the child. Help them prepare their bags before the visit and discuss their plans with the other parent to ease their anxiety.

Whatever happens, your attempts to help your child can make a big difference in keeping a healthy relationship with both parents after the divorce. As much as possible, perform your duty without ill feelings and resentment towards your ex-spouse. If this matter is still giving you a hard time, consult a lawyer to know the best course of action.

About the Author


The information provided on this website is intended for general informational purposes only. It should not be construed as legal advice or legal opinion on any specific matter. The content on this blog is based on the knowledge and experience of the authors up to the date of publication, and it may not reflect the most current legal standards, regulations, or interpretations.

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