What Happens When Children Don’t Want to Follow a Time-Sharing Agreement?
Children under the age of 18 are generally not considered legally competent to make their own decisions. Although we do take their interests into account when making custody and time sharing decisions, their wishes when it comes to these matters do not determine, by themselves, what is in their best interests.
When a Child Does Not Want to be With One Parent
Often, divorced parents will find that a child will want to be with one parent or another or will fight being delivered to a parent for visitation or timesharing. This will often depend on which parent is giving in to the child, letting the child stay up later, letting the child eat dessert, and other things that are very important to children (but not so great when it comes to parenting).
Once a visitation and time sharing schedule is determined, it is not up to the child whether or not he or she wants to follow it. The child must go wherever the schedule dictates that he or she must be (assuming, of course, that there is nothing harmful going on with one parent that keeps the child from wanting to go there such as abuse, which is a different topic).
Parents that “give in” to the child and refuse to drop off a child to the other parent because of the child’s wishes, are in violation of the time sharing agreement between the parties. In other words, “the child didn’t want to go” is not a valid excuse for ignoring a time sharing schedule.
Teenagers and Kids Who Drive
This scenario can be especially different with teenagers and older kids. Many may even drive themselves, and thus, may be able to evade a parent from getting the child to the other parent for visitation.
Parents need to do whatever they can to try to make sure even older kids get to the other parent. This may include taking away privileges, including the privilege of driving. The fact that a child may be old enough to make his or her own decisions is not an excuse for a parent to ignore a time sharing schedule.
Of course, it helps to try to see why the child does not want to go to the other parent’s house. Selfish reasons (for example, the other parent lives too far from the teenager’s boyfriend or girlfriend) should generally be ignored. Valid reasons (such as the other parent won’t take the child to an after school activity or the household does not provide the teenager privacy) should be given more serious attention.
Parents should do their best to work with the other parent to fix issues the children are having as opposed to blaming the other parent. Not only is this smart parenting advice, but if there is a dispute that ends up in court later on, you want to make sure your communications appear civil and rational.
Our Tampa family lawyers at the Pawlowski//Mastrilli Law Group can help you with your questions or concerns about visitation, custody and timesharing. Contact us today for more information.