If the courts order visitation as part of a child custody agreement in a divorce case in Colorado, this gives the parent the legal right to visit with his or her child. As an order from the court, visitation is legally enforceable. However, things can get complicated if the child refuses visitation or wants a different arrangement.
Does a Child Have a Say in a Custody Agreement?
Yes and no. Whether a child’s wishes are taken into account during a custody case depends on the circumstances. There is no specific age at which a child is old enough to contribute to custody decisions in Colorado. A judge will decide on a case-by-case basis according to the child’s age and maturity. If the child’s wishes are taken into account, this could alter the custody and visitation schedule. Once the parenting time schedule has been finalized, all parties must comply with its requirements.
What if a Child or Teen Refuses Visitation?
A divorce can be hard on the children involved. As a child gets older, he or she may not want to take time away from his or her friends or life to visit with the noncustodial parent. However, the courts expect the custodial parent to encourage visitation. If a child is reluctant to visit the other parent, the custodial parent is required to encourage the visits to comply with the custody order.
Otherwise, the noncustodial parent could argue that the other parent isn’t letting the child visit. In extreme cases, this could even lead to parental abduction allegations. The custodial parent needs proof that he or she has taken steps to comply with the court order and ensure child visitation. If the child is refusing visitation, however, there is only so much a parent can do.
A judge will not force a child to visit with a parent. If the child is at least 14 years old, the Colorado courts may take the child’s wishes into account and alter the parenting plan. This is more likely to occur with an older child, such as one who is 16 or 17. At age 18, the child is an adult and no longer has to comply with a custody arrangement. At younger ages, however, the custodial parent should do his or her best to encourage visitation.
What to Do if Visitation Presents a Danger to Your Child
If you find yourself in a situation where your child is refusing visitation or throwing a tantrum when it’s time to visit your ex-spouse, ask why. Get to the bottom of what’s bothering your child and see if it’s something you can fix. If your child tells you that something bad happens when he or she visits with the other parent, this could be grounds to have your custody arrangement changed.
According to Colorado Revised Statutes 14-10-129, if there is evidence that a child’s emotional or physical development could be harmed by visiting with the noncustodial parent, the custodial parent can petition to have the custody agreement modified. If there is evidence of domestic violence, child abuse, neglect or substance abuse, for example, the courts will modify the custody arrangement and may take away the parent’s visitation rights.
The courts will carefully investigate a custody situation before accepting a modification request. A judge will analyze multiple factors, such as the child’s wishes (if old enough), parental fitness, financial capabilities and each parent’s relationship with the child. If the courts agree that it would not be in the child’s best interest to continue visiting the noncustodial parent, a new order may be issued. However, the courts typically will not alter a custody agreement based on the wishes of the child alone.
Contact a Child Custody Attorney
Child custody and visitation schedules are a complicated part of any divorce or legal separation case. If your child is refusing to visit with your ex-spouse, solutions are available. Contact a child custody attorney in Fort Collins for advice and legal services to help your family resolve the issue.