Can teenagers refuse to spend time with one parent post-divorce?

On Behalf of | Dec 7, 2023 | Child custody

The dynamics within a family are in a state of constant flux. The children may have a very different relationship with each parent at different stages of their development. Those dynamics will continue to shift as family members grow and circumstances change.

Oftentimes, the parents in a family or a Virginia judge drafting a custody order will try to factor in existing relationships and the preferences of the children when dividing parenting time. However, it is usually in the best interests of the children to maintain their relationships with both parents, even when they currently get along better with one parent than the other.

What can a parent do if their children refuse to spend time with them despite a custody order granting them parenting time?

The other parent should help

Each adult who is subject to a custody order must do their best to abide by the terms approved by the Virginia family courts. Parents need to show up on time for their visitation and make sure that the children are ready for time with the other parent in the family.

They should also try to maintain a positive attitude about the co-parenting arrangements when talking with the children. One parent could influence the children to develop a very negative attitude about spending time with the other parent.  Intentional interference with a custody order could lead to misdemeanor charges.

If one parent cannot get adequate time with their children because of how the other has influenced the children, the courts may decide to intervene. A parent denied access to the children through a teenager’s personal decision could hold the other parent accountable for violating the custody order. The courts can potentially order make-up parenting time or bring charges against that parent.

Most of the time, children will eventually outgrow their aversion to socializing with one parent and may even come to regret the time lost when they refused to spend time together. It will usually be in the best interests of the children to uphold the custody arrangements as established by the courts.

In extreme cases where the children refuse visitation over reasonable concerns, including neglect or abuse, it may be possible to modify the custody order to reflect their desire to reduce their time with one parent. But, barring an issue that puts their well-being at risk, the courts will expect both parents to consistently abide by the existing custody order.