When parents divorce, working out custody and parenting time can take significant time and effort. Unfortunately, their agreement may hit a snag if their child doesn’t want to comply with the arrangements. Teenagers, in particular, may object to being told they must spend specific blocks of time with a parent, even in families not dealing with divorce. As a result, we are commonly asked by clients at what age a child can refuse visitation. Under Connecticut law, there is no fixed age. Further, going to court to enforce visitation is not necessarily a good solution. In many cases, parents should explore alternative solutions within their family.
Can a Child Legally Refuse Visitation with a Parent?
Generally, under Connecticut law, a child cannot refuse visitation. Judges are not required to consider a child’s preferences in determining custody and/or parenting time. Custody decisions are solely based on the best interests of the child. However, the “informed preferences of a child” may be considered when deciding what custody and visitation arrangement is in the child’s best interest. Courts typically look at the child’s age, maturity level, and intellectual capacity. However, even with a smart and mature child, they may still rule that visitation is in the child’s best interests despite objections.
How Should Parents Deal with a Child Who Objects to Visitation?
Realistically, it is difficult to force a teenager to spend time with a parent even when parents are married. Older children may have reasonable excuses for refusing a particular visit, such as plans with friends or a school activity. Parents should see this as a normal part of child development and try to devise different options to allow the noncustodial parent to have time with the child. This may include switching weekends, meeting during the week, or other arrangements. The key is good communication between parents and children. Often this is difficult in divorce settings, but it is best to address the problem together for the child’s sake. A family counselor may help in this process.
If refusing visitation is a continual problem or there is evidence that the custodial parent is interfering with visitation or engaging in parental alienation, it may be necessary to take court action.
Our divorce and custody trial lawyers have extensive experience handling custody and parenting time issues. If you are considering divorce, or seeking to enforce a custody agreement, contact us to discuss how we can help you with your matter.