Are Children Required to Comply with New York Visitation Orders?

Going through a New York divorce or couple split is often very difficult for all of the parties involved, including any children of the divorcing couple. Children are often unwitting parties to the entire process, yet their lives can change significantly as a result. It is not uncommon for children to resist the fact that their parents are getting divorced or separated. Consequently, they may take one parent’s side over the other.

When it comes to a New York family law court’s custody orders, however, children are obligated to follow the visitation or parenting time arrangement set forth by the court. While a judge will listen to a child’s wishes in regards to visitation, ultimately the court will consider factors other than the child’s expressed preferences when determining whether visitation with the non-custodial spouse is appropriate. If the court determines that the non-custodial spouse has parenting time or visitation rights, then the child must attend visitation.

If a child refuses to honor court-imposed parenting time, courts have several available courses of action, depending on the reasons why the child does not want to participate in visitation with the non-custodial parent.  A child of employable age can be deemed constructively emancipated if without good cause he/she refuses to have a relationship with the non custodial parent.  But the parent seeking emancipation has the burden.  I have previously blogged about constructive emancipation and have represented a number of people in such cases. For example, in one case, the non-custodial parent could have been relieved of their child-support obligation if the child is determined to have “abandoned” the parent, but in this linked case the petitioning parent did not show a lack of justification for the abandonment.

As a general matter, it is important to note that court-ordered visitation is an order directed toward the custodial parent, and if a child fails to comply the custodial parent can face legal consequences. For example, if the court believes that the child’s refusal is due in any part to the custodial parent poisoning the relationship between the child and the non-custodial parent, the court could find the custodial parent in contempt for failing to comply with a court order.

Of course, there are valid reasons why a court would not require a child to comply with a custody order. If the non-custodial parent’s home is unsafe, or there is evidence that the non-custodial parent is unable to properly care for the child, courts can either suspend visitation, order supervised visitation, or eliminate the visitation requirement. Additionally, as a child gets older courts will give a child’s expressed interests greater weight. Thus, a teen who is just a few months away from their eighteenth birthday will not typically be required to participate in visitation if they choose not to.

When a minor child refuses to engage in court-ordered visitation, it is the custodial parent’s job to facilitate visitation as best as possible. If the child refuses to participate in visitation despite a custodial parent’s best efforts, it is better for the custodial parent to get the courts involved early in the process so as to avoid the possibility that fault is attributed to the custodial parent.  Therapeutic visitation is a possible course of action.

Is Your Child Refusing to Comply with Court-Ordered Visitation?

Compliance with a court order is not optional, and minor children involved in New York divorce proceedings must comply with a court’s visitation order. However, it is not uncommon for children to resist these orders and refuse visitation. If you find yourself in this situation, or a similar situation, contact the Law and Mediation Offices of Darren M. Shapiro. Attorney Shapiro is a dedicated New York family law attorney with decades of experience assisting his clients and helping them work through a variety of difficult issues surrounding New York child custody and visitation. To learn more about how Attorney Shapiro can help you, call 516-333-6555 today.

See Other Blog Posts:

When Is It Appropriate for a Judge to Order Spousal Maintenance for Longer than Suggested by the Guidelines?, Long Island Family Law and Mediation Blog, August 1, 2018

Is Business Income Factored into a New York Court’s Post-Divorce Maintenance Award?, Long Island Family Law and Mediation Blog, August 10, 2018