It can be disconcerting for a parent when their child refuses to see the other parent for court-ordered visitation. For the parent handing the child over, the refusal can trigger a whole litany of parental fears. Could the child possibly face harmful, frightening, inappropriate or even dangerous circumstances when with the other parent? Or is there a minor reason the child is balking?
On the other hand, a parent who expects their child for time-sharing according to a court-ordered schedule may feel equally concerned when the child does not show up or the other parent reports the child will not go. The parent expecting visitation may be angry or disappointed with the other parent for not facilitating the transfer or even wonder if their ex may have tried to alienate the child against them.
At play – and sometimes in conflict – in this situation are some fundamental, important Florida family-law concepts:
- Time-sharing must be in the child’s best interest and promote their welfare
- Both parents have equal rights to child access (subject to limitation)
- It is normally better for a child to have at least some kind of relationship with each parent
Immediate steps when a child refuses visitation
Of course, the child’s safety is paramount. If that parent believes that the child’s mental or physical well-being is at risk should the child go for time-sharing, the parent may decide to take emergency action such as involving law enforcement. Any parent facing such a decision should seek legal advice immediately from a knowledgeable Florida family lawyer as the ramifications from some choices can be serious.
For example, a parent who withholds a child from visitation violates the court order to follow the approved schedule. Even if it was the child that refused and not the parent in possession, it is the parent who potentially puts themselves in legal jeopardy for failing to follow the court order. This scenario may get even more difficult if the child is a teenager, but still under 18.
On the other hand, Florida law provides for a pick-up request wherein a parent can ask a judge to order law enforcement to remove a child from someone without the right of possession, including a parent who keeps a child in violation of the visitation order.
In part 2 of this post, we will discuss potential legal remedies like family emergency orders or requests to modify custody or parenting time orders.