What to Do If Your Child Refuses Parenting Time

What to Do If Your Child Refuses Parenting Time

Parenting plans in Arizona set the amount of time a child spends with each parent after a divorce. The child will usually live primarily with one parent and visit the other according to a designated schedule. But what happens if the child decides they don’t want to keep up those visits? This creates a difficult situation that may require court intervention to resolve.

A child below the age of 18 cannot outright refuse visitation in Arizona. If the other parent believes they are being denied parenting time, they can go to court to enforce the plan. A judge may very well conclude that the primary residential parent is responsible for the missed visitation if there hasn’t been a sincere effort to overcome the child’s objections. This could lead to that parent being held in contempt, along with facing other court-imposed measures.

If you’re the parent of primary residence and your child is refusing visitation, there are curative steps you should take. The most important is to open lines of communication. Talk to your child and try to understand the reasons behind their reluctance. Emphasize to the child the importance of parenting time and of complying with court orders. Notify the other parent about the issue using the communication method specified in your parenting agreement. If your agreement doesn't specify one, use text messages or emails to document your attempts to address the problem. Clearly explain your efforts to encourage your child to visit the other parent.

If the child's refusal to visit continues and the other parent petitions for family court relief, the court can order certain enforcement actions and other measures. They include the following:

  • Civil penalties not to exceed $100 for each missed session
  • Additional parenting time to make up for missed sessions
  • Participation in mediation or another form of alternative dispute resolution
  • Parental education or family counseling

Although a minor child cannot refuse visitation, the court can enter an order modifying parenting time in consideration of the child’s own preferences, provided that the child is deemed to be “of suitable age and maturity.” However, other factors will be weighed to determine what is in the child’s best interests, including promotion of a healthy future relationship with both parents.

If your child alleges abuse during visitation, document everything they say and any evidence that supports their claims. If you believe your child is in immediate danger, you have the right to seek a temporary protective order from the court and a plan modification.

At Clark & Schloss Family Law, P.C., we provide legal counsel on child custody and parenting issues for families in Scottsdale and North Phoenix and throughout Maricopa County. You can reach us by phone at 602-789-3497 or contact us online to schedule a consultation.