Visitation rights allow a parent who doesn’t have custody to spend time with their children. In Arizona, family court judges take into consideration the child’s interests and preferences when deciding cases involving visitation rights.
State law requires the child to be of suitable age and maturity level before they can refuse visitation with either parent. However, this age is not directly specified by the law. This means that, legally, a child is not allowed to refuse visitation until they turn 18.
The custodial parent may file a request to change the custody agreement because of the child’s preference. However, the court will still take the overall interests of the child into consideration before making such a drastic decision.
In a lot of child custody cases, these interests do not coincide with the wishes of the child.
Can a Child Refuse Visitation?
As mentioned above, state laws don’t specify an age at which children can exercise the right to refuse visitation. Essentially, children don’t get to decide if they’re going to see the parent or not. This is designed primarily because the choice puts too much pressure on the child. It’s up to the court to decide what the child’s best interests are.
This may seem unfair to many, but one should also remember that a divorce can be an extremely trying time for children. Their refusal to see a parent may be caused by emotional outrage or distress over the changes happening in their lives. They may end up changing their mind often if they’re allowed to pick which parent they like better. Thus, the court will always start from the viewpoint that children need both parents to ensure stability in their lives.
In certain cases, however, the court may consider the wishes of the child before they make their decision. If the child is deemed to be of a suitable age and maturity level, they may be interviewed so the court can better understand what they really want.
What Happens if a Child Refuses Visitation?
Court-ordered parenting time is legally binding for the parents. If the custodial parent fails to bring the child to a scheduled visiting time, they’ll be in violation of the custody agreement’s terms and conditions.
If the child refuses to see their parent who has been granted visitation rights, the latter may have to take the issue to court and ask for mandatory visitation. If the child still refuses, the parents may have to file a petition for the modification of the custody agreement.
This is possible if:
- Both parents agree to the change
- There’s a significant change in the circumstances of the child
- The child is of suitable age and maturity level to assert their preferences
- The custodial parent gives up their rights voluntarily
Once the petition is filed, the court will send a special investigator to meet the child personally. The investigator will determine the child’s reasoning. The child’s preference must be due to a reasonable cause—it can’t be due to something trivial like the other parent’s home has better toys or food.
The investigator’s findings will then be reported to the court. This process will also ensure that the child won’t have to appear in court.
When Should You Hire a Phoenix Child Custody Attorney?
If you need help modifying a custody arrangement, it’s best to have a family law attorney by your side.
A qualified child custody attorney can protect your child’s best interests and your visitation or custodial rights.
If you have any other questions about the legal complexities involved when a child chooses where they want to live, give us a call at (602) 698-5520. We’ll help you understand your legal options and discuss the next steps forward.