I bet you are wondering how I know that teen visitation agreements make parents happy? I know because I had to have one myself! As a result I was able to answer a great question posed on Quora
The Question: Do I have to have visitation with my non-custodial parent if I am 16-years-old and don’t want to?
First, let me tell you, I am NOT a lawyer and I cannot give you legal advice. I am however, a divorced mom, a high school teacher of at risk youth, and a family mediator. That said, there are a few things to consider in providing a meaningful, inspired, and competent answer, one that would genuinely illicit more questions than answers at first.
If we were face to face I would ask you a few things…and within the framework of the questions lies your answer…in life, only you can answer your own questions, so here we go!
What did you agree to?
What is the agreement in your divorce degree/mediation agreement with regard to visitation? That generally sets a precedence that should be followed or a request to revisit the precedence in court should be filed, and respect shown to the non-custodial parent. This parent, regardless of what you think of them, like or don’t like, has the right to see their child(ren). If a parent is hostile and turns children against them, they may even have grounds for a breech of contract suit or to file for some forms of abuse under the law. (Research it yourself before you act. As I said, I am NOT a lawyer and cannot quote law or refer you to case studies. You have to do your own due diligence and be sure you are following your agreement).
What is best?
Next, does the child(ren) want to maintain contact? If they prefer to hang with their friends rather than see mom/dad/non-custodial parent…it is NOT personal! Kids from 9–18 are connecting and forming social groups, hierarchies of their own and generally begin to detach from their parents and experience life more directly, without as much parenting hands on. Depending on the age of the child, you may or many not be able to determine a different or limited visitation schedule. Consider the parents, the child, and the circumstances. Also consider whether parental alienation is taking place?
Parental alienation is any act by one parent to turn children against the other parent through words, actions, or intention to interfere with the parental relationship.
Example: In my own case, my ex lives in New York. I have 95% custody. For a while, my daughter did not want to talk to her father on the phone or use video conferencing. That was our agreement. After a while he assumed I was interfering with their relationship. I insisted that she pick up the phone and speak to him. He did not believe me that she wanted to be with her friends and that it was not personal. This went on for a while…until she decided that she was ready to engage again. (Every child goes through some version of this as they acclimate to the changes in lifestyle, parenting, divorce, remarriage, etc…)
I am so happy and grateful when my daughter sees her father. I appreciate time alone and a respite from the rigors of parenting 24/7. I have come to love seeing their photos on Facebook and love that their relationship is so open and meaningful because it is important to both of their mental and emotional well being to be in one another’s lives. Additionally, the man pays his child support. Loves his kid. Face times with her whenever possible. Calls a gazillion times a day to know the details of her life. And at the end of the day. She would not even exist without him.
A child should NOT be bullied into visiting or refused access to either parent. Open and meaningful dialogue may be difficult for divorcees but it is imperative for children of divorcees. My ex and I had to put on our big kid pants and learn to be kind and honor one another…which we could not in our marriage…thus, the divorce. We get along better now than we did in the same house…and our daughter is a well adjusted and wonderful girl.
So, whatever you decide, visitation or no visitation, keep in mind that there is so much more below the surface that you do not see. If you withhold your child, you are likely causing the non-custodial parent grave pain (even if you don’t believe it or they don’t show it). Imagine if you were the one your kid never wanted to see again.
Please encourage visitation. Please be compassionate when you explain or tell in a letter, why the child does not want to visit. Anything blocking visitation is an opportunity for expression and growth…if you allow it to be.
I wish you the best and I am here to support you in having those difficult conversations should you need a neutral third party to intervene. Contact Us