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When Can a Child Refuse Visitation?

Co-parenting is difficult. In particular, living apart from your children makes your visitation all that more important. You want to see your children, but what happens if your ex calls to say your child is “refusing” to visit you? Is that even allowed in Missouri? And what can you do if you want to continue to see your children? Please contact Call & Gentry Law Group, LLC, to speak with a Jefferson City family law attorney. Below, we provide an overview of the law.

Your Rights as a Parent

Parents often negotiate a parenting plan as part of a divorce. When agreement is impossible, a judge will adopt a parenting plan. In most cases, your children live most of the time with one parent, who is the custodial parent. The non-custodial parent gets parenting time with the children, which we often call “visitation.”

Your right to see your children is found in the judicial order. You have a right to see your children as spelled out in the parenting plan adopted by the court.

Can a Child Refuse to See You?

Technically, not until your child is 18. At that point, they are an adult under Missouri law and can do what they want.

If your child is younger, however, you have a right to see them. Unfortunately, there might be obstacles. As children age, they often get a driver’s license and are out of the house to spend time with friends. They have after school activities that can consume weeks at a time. Because their lives are busy, they might not want to see you—or they simply don’t have the time.

One misconception is that children at age 12 can refuse visitation. Actually, a judge will consider a child’s preference for who should have primary custody if the child is 12 or older. But that doesn’t give a child the right to refuse visitation.

What Can You Do as a Parent?

You have some options. As an initial matter, you should try to find out why your child is avoiding you. Are they busy? Or is the other parent trying to turn your children against you. Ask to speak to your child on the phone so you can feel out why they don’t want to visit.

Legally, you can demand to see your child. If the other parent won’t take them to the drop-off location, you can file a motion to enforce the visitation order. Doing undoubtedly creates tension, however, and typically requires a court hearing.

In other situations, you can negotiate a change in your parenting plan. For example, your child might still want to see you, but their schedule has made the parenting plan outdated. This often happens when children enter middle school and then again when they get to high school or obtain a license. An option is to update the plan to account for your child’s schedule. Try to be flexible. You and the other parent can agree to changes, although significant changes probably need a judge’s approval.

Get Legal Advice

Child custody disputes can be stressful, especially when you hear that a child doesn’t want to see you. Please contact Call & Gentry. Our Jefferson City, Missouri family law attorneys can discuss how to approach the dispute.