Last Updated on September 4, 2023 by Turner Thornton
When parents divorce or separate, it’s not uncommon for children – especially teenagers – not to want to visit mom or dad at some point. Maybe they are upset with them, don’t like the rules at their house, or have other plans.
But can a child refuse visitation in Texas?
The short answer to this question is, no. Children do not have the legal right to refuse visitation in Texas if it’s court-ordered. It’s simply not their choice.
In this article, our experienced family law attorneys explain court-ordered visitation, what to do if a child refuses to see a parent, and at what age they can make their own decisions.
Court-Ordered Visitation in Texas
In Texas, a family court judge orders child visitation as part of a divorce, child custody proceeding, or Suit Affecting the Parent-Child Relationship (SAPCR.) The order lays out a possession and access schedule that both parents are supposed to follow, based on what the judge believes is in the best interests of the child.
The primary goal of court-ordered visitation is to ensure that the child maintains a meaningful relationship with both parents, even if they are no longer together.
In Texas, most parents follow the Standard Possession Order (SPO), which is a guide that establishes the day and times that the noncustodial parent has the right to see the child. The SPO also specifies when the noncustodial parent can take the child for an extended period, such as a summer vacation or holidays.
What To Do if a Child Refuses Visitation in Texas
If a child doesn’t want to visit a parent, it is the responsibility of the other parent to make a genuine effort to comply with the court order. In other words, the other parent should do everything in their power to make their child go with the other parent – or else they themselves may face consequences for violating the court order.
So, what are potential courses of action if a child refuses visitation in Texas?
- Open a Dialogue: First and foremost, both parents should attempt to understand the child’s reservations. Engage in open communication to discern the root of the reluctance and try to resolve it outside of court.
For example, if a teenager just has something else they would rather do on the non-custodial parent’s weekend, an appropriate solution might be for the parties to agree to a different schedule. If the teenager’s reluctance is rooted in something deeper, such as a strained relationship with the other parent, counseling or therapy may be necessary to help resolve the issue.
- Seek Mediation: If the underlying issues can’t be resolved through direct communication, mediation might help. A neutral third-party mediator can assist parents in reaching a mutual understanding and possibly adjusting the visitation schedule to suit the child’s needs and concerns.
- Modify the Court Order: Either parent can approach the court to request a modification of the existing custody or visitation order based on the child’s consistent refusal and underlying reasons. Courts will always prioritize the child’s best interests when considering modifications.
- Attend Counseling: Courts may recommend or mandate counseling sessions for the child, the parents, or the entire family. A therapist can help in addressing and resolving the emotional or psychological barriers causing the refusal.
- Potential for Contempt: If a parent fails to make genuine efforts to comply with the visitation order, the other parent can file a motion for enforcement. A hearing will be held and both sides will have the opportunity to present evidence. If the judge believes that a parent participated in denying the visitation, they could face legal penalties or even contempt of court, which could result in fines, jail time or both.
- Document Everything: In case the matter escalates legally, both parents should maintain detailed records of each instance the child refuses visitation, including dates, times, reasons given by the child, and actions taken in response.
* For non-custodial parents, even if you know the child is going to refuse, it is important to still physically go to the correct address at the right time and date of your possession to show that you followed the order and make a good faith effort to see your child. Take pictures and buy something at a nearby store, and keep the receipt to show the time, date, and location.
- Legal Representation: In any situation involving potential legal ramifications or the need to modify court orders, it’s crucial to consult with and, if necessary, retain a family law attorney familiar with Texas law. At Varghese Summerset Family Law Group, our attorneys have decades of collective experience in family law matters and can provide you with the guidance and representation you need.
What about Calling the Police?
Deciding whether to involve the police when a child refuses visitation is a sensitive issue. Here are some considerations and potential outcomes if you’re contemplating such a decision:
⇒ Escalation and Trauma: Calling the police can escalate the situation and might be traumatic for the child. Children might associate the experience with guilt, fear, or anxiety, which can have long-term emotional repercussions.
⇒ Police Likely Will Not Enforce Visitation Directly: Law enforcement officers generally don’t enforce civil orders, like visitation rights, directly. They might not have the authority to force a child to go with a parent, especially without a court order that specifically states they have this authority.
⇒ Creating a Record: When the police are called, there’s a potential for the creation of a report, even if they do not take any action. This record can later be referenced in court proceedings, which could either help or harm your case, depending on the circumstances.
⇒Legal Implications: Continually involving the police might influence a judge’s perception of the ongoing dynamics and could affect future custody or visitation rulings.
⇒Alternative Solutions: Instead of calling the police, consider discussing the situation with the other parent, seeking mediation, or consulting a family therapist or counselor to address the child’s concerns and reluctance.
⇒ Consult with an Attorney: If refusals become consistent and are impacting the relationship between the noncustodial parent and the child, consult with a family law attorney. They can provide guidance tailored to your specific situation and inform you of the best steps to take, both legally and for the welfare of the child. The attorneys at Varghese Summersett Family Law Group can help.
Common Reason Children Don’t Want to Go
Children may refuse visitation for a variety of reasons. Some are minor and temporary, while others may indicate deeper issues. Here are common reasons a child might resist visitation:
Adjustment Difficulties: Especially soon after a separation or divorce, children might find it hard to adjust to two separate households, different rules, and routines.
Conflict with the Other Parent: Disagreements or misunderstandings with the noncustodial parent can lead to reluctance. This could be due to discipline differences, lifestyle changes, or other disagreements.
Influence from Custodial Parent: Sometimes called “parental alienation,” a child might refuse visitation due to negative perceptions or beliefs instilled by one parent about the other. This could be unintentional or deliberate.
Comfort and Convenience: They might prefer the familiarity of one home, especially if it’s where they’ve lived most of their life. Or they could be avoiding the inconvenience of packing and moving between houses regularly.
Social and Extracurricular Activities: As children grow, their social lives and extracurricular activities become more important. They might resist visitation if they feel it interferes with their plans, friendships, or activities.
New Family Dynamics: The introduction of new partners, step-siblings, or other family members at the noncustodial parent’s home can be a source of discomfort or anxiety.
Fear or Experience of Abuse: In more severe cases, a child might refuse visitation due to physical, emotional, or sexual abuse. Such situations require immediate attention and intervention. If abuse is suspected, call the police immediately.
Developmental Phases: Certain developmental stages can make children more resistant to change or more attached to one parent.
Living Conditions: Differences in living conditions, such as a smaller living space, lack of personal space, or fewer amenities, might make a child reluctant.
Emotional Blackmail: The child might use refusal as a means to manipulate situations to their advantage or to express unhappiness about unrelated issues.
Understanding the root cause of the refusal is essential for addressing the issue effectively. Open communication, patience, counseling, and, in some cases, legal advice can help navigate these challenges and ensure the best interests of the child are prioritized.
At What Age Can a Child Refuse Visitation in Texas?
According to Section 129.001 of the Texas Civil Practice & Remedies Code, a child is considered a legal adult in Texas once they turn 18. As an adult, they cannot be forced to visit a parent and have the right to make their own decisions, including when and how often they visit their parents.
Can’t a Child Choose at Age 12?
This is a common misconception. A child under 18 does not have a legal right to refuse visitation. However, children aged 12 and older can express their wishes to the judge. The judge can then consider the child’s preference but isn’t obligated to follow it.
Child Doesn’t Want to Visit Mom or Dad? Contact Us.
If your child is refusing visitation with you or the other parent, you are probably feeling overwhelmed and unsure of what to do. Varghese Summerset Family Law Group understands these complexities, and we’re here to help. Our attorneys have a wealth of experience in family law cases involving child custody and visitation matters.
Contact us at 817-900-3220 for a consultation to discuss your situation today. We are dedicated to helping find the best solution for you and your children.