Thursday, December 16, 2010

My kid's don't want to visit their dad/mom!!

Any good divorce attorney will tell you, "For heavens sake, whatever you do don't tell the judge your kids don't want to visit their father/mother!" I have said these words to clients countless times, and I always get the same response, "but its true, they don't want to go!!" In my career I have brought hundreds of enforcement actions seeking to put one parent in jail for failing to allow the other parent to pick up the children during their visitation. In almost every instance I here the same response, regarding how the children don't want to go visit the other parent. There are numerous reasons why a child might not want to go to the other parent's house for visitation, and nearly all of them have to do with the way the primary parent treats the child. Maybe the primary parent drills them with questions when they get back, or maybe the primary parent talks bad about the visiting parent all the time, or it could be as simply as the primary parent's bad attitude as it gets closer to visitation time. The bottom line is its usually not the child that doesn't want to go, its usually the primary parent that doesn't want the child to go.

Nothing upsets a judge more than a parent who says their child doesn't want to go, and if they don't want to go, I can't make them. Really!! So if your 10 year old says, I don't want to go to school anymore, or says I don't want to clean up my room, are you going to say, oh well, if he doesn't want to, I can't make him. I don't think so. Again the bottom line is, its not the child that doesn't want to go, its the primary parent.

So what do judges expect of the parent. Most judges expect the parent to put on a smile and say to the child in a happy voice, "Lucky you, its time to go to your dad's (or mother's) house, your going to have a great time!" To some this may sound rediculous, but judge's expect parent's to be the grown up and act like the grown up. And if they can't, well that parent may just spend some time in the custody of the county jail, or worse the judge may decide that parent isn't the right person to be the primary parent.

Of course all this begs the question, so when does a child get to decide not to go to the other parent's for visitation. The short answer is when the child is no longer considered a child, which is when the child turns 18. However, the Court also understands that as a child gets older (16 or 17) the child will have other obligations, such as jobs, extracuricular activities, social events etc. At this point its best if both parents can communicate and learn to work around these events so that both parents can participate and still have time to see the child. If they can't then the Court will make provisions that neither parent will like. I once had a case where the child was 16 years of age and very active. She had a part time job, was active in dance and competition cheerleding. My client had issues because everytime he tried to see his daughter the mother had an excuse of why the child couldn't come. At the hearing the judge ordered that visitation would be as agreed between the father and the daughter. In other words mother was cut out of the decision making all together. This did not sit well with the mother, and the father was not happy because it did not have any specific times for visitation.

In the end, when its time for the child to go to the other parent, remember, the child's attitude will usually reflect that of the primary parent. So if the primary parent has a good attitude about the child going to the other parent's house, the child will too. But its not all about the primary parent, the parent picking up the child needs to have a good attitude as well. If the parent doing the visitation arrives with a bad attitude (usually because of having to see or deal with the other parent) the child will sense this and think its because that parent doesn't want to see the child. So if you are the parent excercising visitation, forget about the other parent, put on a happy face and show excitement about getting to see your child. Life will be so much better and save you from having to spend money on attorneys and legal fees.


  1. My daughter is 12 and will be starting middle school next year. She said she's not going to tell her dad about things she wants to try out for because she knows he'll say no, but I don't keep things from him. I tell her that he loves her and wants to see her, but the fact that she hasn't been able to do some group activities due to them being on the weekends has upset her. When she goes over there she does nothing but give attitude. He lives 3 hours away and she wants him to either move closer or stop picking her up. She says, "If he really loves me and wants to be a part of my life, then he'll move closer." I don't know what else to tell her.

  2. I just have to say your article was right on point with our situation. Just when I was starting to doubt ourselves and felt like giving up I read your article and it made me feel relief that we are doing what needs to be done. My husband's ex-wife is completley manipulating the kids and stressing them out when its time to get them to the point they are telling us they dont want to come. His some says he loves us but he doesnt want to come because of the drama. It is much easier for them to do what their mother says because they see her everyday.

  3. As her mom, YOU need to be the bigger person. Do the right thing and explain to your child that her time with dad is priceless. Little girls, and teenage girls too, need time with their father, regardless of how "quality" she thinks it is now, she will appreciate later that he gave her that effort. Theres no reason other than abuse or criminal behavior to encourage your daughter to refuse her visit with dad.

  4. If I were the primary parent of the child, I would let him/her visit his/her father if my child wants to. The decision should always come from the child - you can't force them nor restrain them. It's also better to talk him/her about the current situation and ask him/her to decide whether he/she still wants to go see him.

    Dana Samuelson

  5. I am the custodial parent, 9 months out of an 8 year abusive relationship. The judge we got wagged his finger and gave their father visitation every other weekend, against my request for supervised visits. After being shown proof of multiple accounts of physical, emotional and mental abuse to myself and the children. Guess what, he's still doing it! He's undergoing court ordered anger managment and taking nothing out of it. He doesnt see what he is doing as being wrong. Therefore, not going to change.
    My kids Dont Want To Go! Something happens to them every weekend visit. I'm assuming that most of you want to know what that is. So you can judge for yourselves whether they should go through it or not. I'm the parent, I say no.
    I have a long list of my kids volunteered information. After their visits, I dont interrogate them or coach them or brainwash them. He does all that to them on his time. My kids come to me and purge themselves of these awful accounts. And it brings back memories. But now i'm not there to protect them. ... Well, even when I was there I was just another object to be mistreated and controlled. There was little to nothing I could do. He's awful and mentally unbalanced! Yes, I tried to leave several times. Yes, I would come back or stay because he would threaten to kill me or the kids or himself or take the money or the house, etc, etc, etc. Until I finally didnt care about any of his usual threats, I only cared about myself and my kids and stayed gone!
    Now I find it hard to believe that the court is ordering me to force my children to endure all of it, still! Why? Because that judge is a fool. Really, their father admitted to a few of the physical abuse acts saying "yes, he thinks its ok to kick and choke children" and the judge thinks anger management alone will fix him?! It really is a hard pill to swallow and I really want to find a way to make that judge and my soon to be ex take responsible and the appropriate consequences for doing/allowing these things to happen to my children. AND I cant believe how many people agree that the children should continue to be around their father!?! Or that some of you are cheering for the abusive fathers here.
    I'm no victim, Not Any More! Regardless of what happens, I dont succumb to the cycles anymore. I fight. I got out and all I wanted was to heal, be the parent I know I can be and for the courts to protect us so that those things could happen peacefully and uninterfered. So far its a struggle to single parent but then throw in having to/not being able to protect my children from their father. Healing is almost impossible, its an ongoing battle because the abuse hasnt stopped. The insane text messages, which I dont respond to, keep coming. The court, did not care to protect us. More specifically, the children.
    Anger, is an emotion, not a behavior. It lets us know that something wrong is happening to us and gives us the boost we need, to assert boundaries to protect ourselves. ... I am angry.

  6. I read this article and it does make sense. However, in my case I want my children to go to their dads and I love it when they do, he is their father and there is nothing that can take that away. When I get messages from my 13 year old or when I get phone calls of her sobbing her eyes out saying that her dad don't love her or show that he loves her kills me. She sent me a message last night that ripped my heart out. She said "Mommy, I wish dad loves me like so and so. Dad never does anything with us." My response to her was that her dad does love her and her sister very much, to give him time and he will come around, that he doesn't really know you that well. (During my marriage he wasn't around much I did everything with the kids)She responded "But he is my dad. Mommy it hurts so mch when I know that he would rather hang out with his friends and get drunk than spend any time with us." (this is the way it was for the last 4 years of my marriageand 1 1/2 year later he hasn't changed)She point blank told me that she didn't care if she ever got to see her bestfriend again she didn't want to go back to her dads house. I don't know what to do I am at a loss with all of this. When my oldest daughter tries to tell him how she feels he ends up yelling at her and blames me for her feelings. When I try to talk to him about what how they feel he says that I am trying to come in between his relationship with his girls (13 and 9). It is not the case I try everything I can talking him up to the girls (because he makes promises to do things with them and breaks his promise)and I reassure them that their dad loves them. Please help I need some advice. My husband feels really about all of this and he also does not know what to do.


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