Anyone that has shared custody knows that transitions from home to home can be the most difficult time. What if a child refuses to leave one home when it is time? Do children have a say in where they live? These are questions family law attorneys have to answer almost daily.
If your child is refusing to leave your home to go to the other, you have to do your very best to encourage them to go. It sounds counter-intuitive because people want their children to want them and to stay with them, but a parent that allows a child to refuse to go to the other home can face legal consequences. This does not mean you have to drag your child kicking and screaming to your ex’s car, but you have to open the door, tell the child they have to go, and communicate as best you can with the other parent about your efforts. Document your communications. Talk about the issue in advance if the child is saying they do not want to leave your home. Parents have to encourage and support the parenting plans that are in place. Again, it is difficult, but the Court does not want to hear that a parent is telling a child they do not have to go to the other house.
Children can have a say in where they live depending on their age and developmental level. However, if there is a parenting plan in place, it has to be followed. This means your teenager cannot decide on his or her own to skip one parent’s parenting time. If a teenager or older child is consistently refusing to go to one home, it is best to file a modification with the Court. The judge will interview children, typically after age fourteen, again depending on the child’s developmental level. If the child is younger a counselor, Court Appointed Advisor, or Best Interest Attorney can interview them and submit their findings to the Court. This still does not mean a child can pick with whom they live. That is still ultimately a decision that will be made after a Judge hears all of the relevant evidence.
The bottom line is parents have to participate in and support the parenting plans in place, whether they were enacted by agreement or by order. A parent that allows a child to refuse to see another or encourages a child to fight when it is time to go to the other home can be held in contempt. Contempt is a broad term and a judge can determine what is the appropriate sanction with broad discretion. It could be monetary fines or further restrictions on their own parenting time. Either way, it can hurt the parent for the rest of the case, until their child is eighteen.
20325 N 51st Avenue Suite #134, Building 5
Glendale, AZ 85308
Office: (480) 509-0955
2 East Congress St., Suite #900-6A
Tucson, AZ 85701
Office: (520) 441-1450
12725 W. Indian School Rd., Ste E, #101Avondale, AZ 85392
Office: (623) 469-6603