What to Do When a Child Refuses Visitation

If a child refuses to adhere to your custody agreement or decree, you should not improvise or ignore the court-ordered schedule. The court has the best interest of your child in mind and does its best to preserve the relationship between both parents and the child when creating the custodial and visitation agreements. When a child refuses visitation to a parent, the court can get involved, and a failure to comply with the schedule can have serious legal consequences.

It is also worth noting that a child’s custodial preferences are a factor when determining best interest, that preference may not outweigh the other factors to be considered. In Maryland when a child reaches 16 years of age, he or she may have their own counsel to advocate for their preference. Regardless, it is imperative to determine whether the child’s refusal is warranted or unwarranted. As a general guideline, the bar for the court to revise a visitation schedule will be high. Only when there is a material change in circumstance will a court modify an order that is in place.

When processing a divorce, it is not uncommon for children to go through various periods of alignment with one parent over the other, often for reasons having to do with their immediate desires and interests. For example, one parent might be stricter while the other is more easy going. Particularly during middle school and high school, when social expectations are highest, a child may seek to push these limits and acquire more freedom by refusing to visit with the stricter parent altogether. The court strives to prioritize fostering a deep and enduring relationship between the child and both parents over the child’s more short-sighted preferences.

The court is obliged to determine whether a warranted reason for refusal of visitation has emerged since the divorce settlement. Emotional or physical abuse, mental illness, physical disability, a dangerous or distressing environment within the home, or manipulation by one parent against the other are all valid reasons to consider altering or eliminating the existing legal visitation schedule.

The custodial parent will be held responsible for facilitating the visitation of a minor child and could be deemed in contempt of the divorce decree if they fail to do so. If your child is refusing to adhere to the visitation schedule, make sure to notify your co-parent immediately in writing and document any behaviors that ensue. The best course of action will be to put aside any hard feelings you may have for one another and work together to help your child maintain a strong bond with each parent. If a family meeting cannot rectify the situation, call upon a family lawyer or a therapist to help mediate the situation.

If your child refuses visitation, contact your family law attorney immediately to ensure you follow the law and maintain the best interests of your child. The attorneys at TNS Family Law are experienced in complex visitation matters and can advise you on how to best help your child and avoid serious legal consequences. TNS can also recommend trusted experts for both therapeutic interventions and custody evaluations.

If you need advice or representation related to divorce, please contact TNS Family Law at (410) 339-4100 or Our team of attorneys is here to help guide you.

Related Posts: 
Maryland Child Custody Laws
How to Ensure a Child-Centric Divorce
Can I Expedite a Change in Custody if I Fear My Child Is in Danger?
Can I Modify My Child Custody Agreement?
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