Colorado courts decide all family court matters including child custody, parenting time, and visitation in the best interests of the child. A child’s opinion on custody and visitation is only one small part of the court’s considerations when making these decisions.
It’s relatively easy to exchange small children for court-ordered parenting time or visitation according to the parenting schedule decided by the court, but what happens when an older child doesn’t want to visit the non-custodial parent or stay at one parent’s home during their assigned parenting time? At what age can a Colorado child refuse visitation?
Colorado’s Stand on Sharing Parenting Time
When prioritizing a child’s best interests, the Colorado courts make decisions in a child’s best interests under the general understanding that continued frequent contact with both parents is in the best interests of children. To that end, while a court might hear a younger child’s preference on custody and visitation matters, once a child turns 14 years old, the court is much more likely to carefully consider their preference as the court acknowledges age 14 as an age at which children can express a mature opinion and have greater autonomy. However, when custody has already been decided and a parenting schedule is in place, the courts expect both parents to encourage their child’s visits to the other parent and comply with the court order or else they must request a modification.
What Happens if a Child Refuses Court-Ordered Visitation?
When a child is younger than age 14, it’s the parent’s job to make their child understand that they must comply with the judge’s orders for shared parenting time. Allowing a child to refuse visitation can leave the parent who doesn’t comply open to contempt charges even if the parent was bending to the wishes of the child.
Once a child is age 14 or older, the courts understand that the parents can only do so much to make a child comply with the court-ordered visitation. Changing homes every other week or every few days can be disruptive to a teen’s growing social life. It also becomes more difficult for teens who have to remember to transport homework, sports uniforms, and other necessities back and forth between two homes. However, the courts still require parents to comply with the judge’s orders and encourage their child to continue frequent contact with the other parent whenever possible.
Only if a child over age 14 refuses to comply, attempts to evade or run away, or otherwise resists court-ordered visitation, should the custodial parent return to court with a request to modify the existing court order based on the teen child’s wishes.
Under What Circumstances Will a Judge Modify Child Visitation Orders?
For children ages 16-17, the courts in Colorado are typically much more likely to modify an existing court order for parenting time to accommodate the teen’s wishes. However, for children of ages 14-15, the courts require the parent requesting a modification to demonstrate one or more of the following:
That forcing the child to comply is causing significant emotional or physical harm
That all parties agree to the change
That the custodial parent volunteers to give up their rights to the child’s custody
That there is evidence of physical, sexual, or emotional abuse in the other parent’s home
That there’s been a significant change in the custodial parent’s home, or the home of the parent with visitation rights, that makes changing the original order in the child’s best interests
One parent intends to relocate in a way that impacts the ability to accommodate the existing parenting schedule
The teenaged child or the parent requesting the modification of a visitation order on behalf of an older child refusing visitation must demonstrate that the requested change is in the child’s best interest before the court will consider making the change.