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Can a Child be Forced to Visit a Parent?

If you are a parent going through a divorce or child custody case, having orders in place regarding your children is important if you are attempting to exercise child visitation rights. Too often parents are being denied access and visitation to their children, even involving law enforcement in the matters.

Without any kind of orders in place, there is nothing law enforcement officials can do. If you are married to your child’s other parent, you should begin to seek a divorce which will help establish a visitation order for your child. If you are not married or not choosing to get a divorce at this time, you should file a Suit Affecting the Parent-Child Relationship to get child custody and a visitation order established.  

What you will find is that through the courts a divorce or family law attorney can get orders established on determining how decisions will be made for your children, including all medical, education, legal issues, etc. They will also be able to establish a visitation order that decides when each parent will exercise their visitation rights, along with child support, and medical support.

With an order in place, each parent will be aware of what is expected of them, but not always are those orders followed. For whatever reason, if you find you are being denied access to your children you should be informed about your rights and the precautionary measures you should be taking.

Passive Contempt

Its common that a child will refuse to go with a parent trying to exercise their possession, or that a parent will withhold their child from the parent attempting to exercise possession. This is what is known as passive contempt. So comes the question most parents want to know: does my child have to go with the other parent?

The short answer is yes, visitation is not optional for a child just because they refuse to go. Judges make orders excepting they be followed, and if you are a the custodial parent or managing conservator, you should comply by a Judge’s orders even if your child doesn’t want to follow the orders or there may be consequences for you.

Why Does My Child Refuse to See Me?

More important than forcing your child to see their other parent is to figure out why exactly they do not want to see their other parent.

Some parents do not realize that their children are like sponges soaking up everything they are exposed to. Most parents need to realize they may be the cause of their child’s tensed feelings about their other parent.  

It is quite often you hear of parents trying to alienate their children from the other, or another parent bringing about rumors of such behavior. As a result, this will reflect in your child’s behaviors and that could cause a strain on their relationship with both parents.

Parents need to step back and evaluate their own behavior and restructure the way they talk about the other parent in front of their children. If you are engaging in behaviors like obsessive questioning when your child returns from visitation, bad mouthing the other parent and their families, or making your child feel guilty for seeing their other parent, then you are as much of the problem as your child.

It is important to remember you are the adult here, and you should be promoting the family values in your child. Just because they do not want to see their other parent is it your job to explain to them what is going on and why they should continue visiting their other parent.

Visitation Journals

Once custody and visitation orders have been in place, parents will tend to feel a sense of security. However, your work as a parent has just begun because things like modifications and enforcements are so common. Therefore, it is important to begin keeping a visitation journals with your child once orders are in place if you do need a modification or an enforcement.

If issues arise you will have proof of things like any attempts of talking with the other parent about visitation issues. You should keep a very detailed journal that answers the questions:

  • Who – what witnesses were there when you tried to see your children? Did you call the police? If so, what is the report number?
  • What- happened?
  • Where – did you attempt to pick up your children?
  • When – what dates and times did you try to pick up your children?
  • Why – did the other parent refuse possession of your children?

Updates should be as current as every attempt that you try to see your children and are refused. It’s helpful to write your journal notes as soon as the refusal takes place to provide more detailed and accurate reports.

Enforcements/Modifications

If you have exercised all options, it is important to know you have legal remedies you can turn to as well if nothing else has worked for you. What may have worked for your 5-year-old may be not be so helpful with a 16-year-old, and enforcements and modifications can be helpful.

Beginning with an enforcement, a parent can file an enforcement with a court to order the parent not following the court order to obey it.

You can also file a modification if circumstances have changed so much that you believe there needs to be a modification on issues like child custody, child support, or visitation.

This is where the visitation journal and other witnesses who have witnessed what you have went through will come in handy.

Children Over 18

Lastly, some parents believe that as a child matures, they have more say so in refusing to go with their other parent during their periods of possession. Some believe 10 is an appropriate age, others 15, but all are wrong.

In Texas, children are not legally able to make decisions for themselves until the age of 18, so therefore they will have to comply with those court orders regarding visitation and possession until they are 18.

In short, if you are ever in doubt about your possession, you should always fall back to what your Judge ordered you to do regarding your children. Even if a child’s activities are beginning to interfere with your time of possession you should continue to visit your child. If you are withholding your child because you are not getting child support or if you are not paying child support because you don’t see your child then you should know you are in the wrong. At the end of the day, you should always follow a Judge’s orders even if that means making your child visit their other parent.

If you have more questions regarding what you should do in your specific circumstances, you should know that we have designated experts here to give you advice about what you should be doing.   

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