During a divorce or when two parents separate, a custody agreement is established. In some cases, the parents will create their own arrangement, but in others, a judge will determine an arrangement that is in the best interest of the child.
Parents who don’t abide by a custody arrangement can face legal ramifications, but what if the child refuses to go? Our child custody lawyers in Raleigh are sharing a closer look at this issue as well as at what age a child can refuse visitation.
Determining the Best Interest of the Child
First, let’s look at how a judge determines child custody. According to the North Carolina General Statute, a judge must consider the best interests of a child and consider issues such as:
- Both parents’ custody wishes
- Both parents’ living arrangements
- Both parent’s physical and mental health
- Each parent’s ability to care for the child
- Each parent’s willingness to foster a positive relationship between the child and the other parent
- Age, health, and needs of the child
- Child’s adjustment to home, school, and community
- Parental history of domestic violence or addiction issues
Does the NC Court Consider a Child’s Preference?
The judge does not have to consider a child’s preference for which parent to live with or how often (if ever) they will see their non-custodial parent. However, a judge will often take into account the age and maturity level of a child and sit down with them in chambers, away from the open court, and listen to their preferences. If they determine the child is at the age of discretion where they can provide a rational preference regarding custody, the judge may take their wishes into consideration.
For example, if a 10-year-old child provides a rational preference for wanting to live with one parent over the other, the court may rule in that way. However, if a 15-year-old doesn’t wish to visit a parent because they don’t agree with their rules, the court may ignore these wishes.
Can a Child Refuse Visitation in Raleigh?
A child can not refuse to visit a parent when a court has ordered visitation at a certain schedule. This is violating a court order.
However, it’s not as cut and dried as it may seem. A police officer is not likely to be sent to one parent’s house to take the child to an enforced visitation with the other parent as that would be seen as doing more harm than help the situation.
Can a Parent Be Held Accountable?
In some cases, yes, a custodial parent can be held in contempt or in violation of a court order for failing to follow a visitation schedule. A hearing may be scheduled and the judge will ask the custodial parent why the child refuses visitation. Factors that will weigh the decision include:
- Why the child does not want to visit
- What efforts the custodial parent has made to follow the visitiation schedule
- How old is the child?
- What efforts were made to compel visitation? Were they the same as if a child refused to attend school?
- Has the parent punished or taken privileges from a child who refuses to follow visitation?
The court understands that forcing a teenager to visit a parent is much more challenging than a toddler or preschooler, but they will still look at efforts made to do so. In some cases, mandatory custody mediation will be scheduled and a guardian ad litem may be appointed to advocate for your child.
What to Do When a Child Refuses Visitation
When your child refuses to visit you, it’s important to speak with an attorney to determine the best course of action for your case. In some situations, the other parent may be manipulating the child against you, which is a case of parental alienation and is a serious issue.
On the other hand, if your child is refusing to visit the other parent due to unsuitable conditions, abuse, or other concerns, and you are concerned that forcing the issue will do harm to your child, an update to the child custody arrangement may be necessary. Again, having a child custody lawyer on your side is key to ensure you have someone advocating for the best interests of you and your family.
Schedule a Consultation with a Child Custody Attorney in Raleigh Today
If your child refuses to see you and you feel their other parent may be causing this problem, or if you’d like to have a custody arrangement updated to better favor your child’s wishes, we can help. Our experienced child custody attorneys are on your side to help you reach your goals. Schedule a consultation today by calling (919) 301-8843 or filling out the form below to get started.
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