Skip to main content

Mother has full custody of 16 year old and father has no visitation rights child wants to live with father in WA is this okay

Ephrata, WA |

I have full custady of my 16 year old son. His dad has no visition rights. Can my son decide to live with his father. and is there anyway I can stop it.

+ Read More

Attorney answers 5


The fact that a parent was not granted any visitation rights does not mean the court was correct.

The child may in fact love the father and the court may have made a strategic decision - whether for CAPTA or CSSA funding - to cut off ties in order to generate money for the state. The father may have run out of money to continue the fight for his child and simply threw up his hands and left the locality.

Such cases are a tragedy and I always recommend to my clients in New York that when that happens, they should file a notice of claim with their local municipality for future suit when the child comes around and realizes he has been had. A child can sue a city when he reaches the age of majority and every jurisdiction nationwide has statutes that govern alienation of affection.

So, the adage goes that "fathers never get custody and mothers always lose it" is a fabrication by the interloping of the government into our lives. Accordingly, the son will get to his father and father will have custody and mom will be the child support obligor, and the child will avoid mom.

That's the 90's contract with America at work.


I disagree with the prior answer for the most part. Quite frankly, it is bizarre. Primary custody with no visitation rights likely means mom alleged a list of horribles and dad didn't respond, or he did respond and it was proven. It could also be a paternity order that had mom with primary custody and did not address father's visitation. He may have run out of money, but he could have still shown up and presented his case. There is certainly no such recognizable claim against the County where the court was that made the decision that the prior post mentions. Dad could have appealed or modified the order since it was entered.

Legally, in Washington, if you were awarded custody and there is an enforceable order in effect, the parents have to abide by the order, or Parenting Plan in custody cases. If dad wants more visitation, he can file a Petition For Modification and get it if there was no reason for limitation or eliminating visitation in the first place or, if he has changed his behavior or circumstances since the order. If he violates the order, he can be found in contempt.

If father wants to Bring a Petition for Modification to change primary custody, he will have an uphill burden of alleging and proving that there has been a substantial change in circumstances in your home or the child that changing custody would be better than what he has now.

However, practically speaking, we see a lot of kids at that age who make life such a living hell for the primary parent that he or she relents and allows the change. In addition, the child can file an action in Juvenile court regarding problems at home and ask for help or push his dad to file a modification. If child's behavior gets bad enough, you may seek help through the juvenile court as well.

It is a tough choice, as you know that when the child is 18, he can do whatever he wants. How you handle this will affect your relationship with the child for the rest of your lives. The first thing you should consider is what is in the best interests of your son and go from there. You likely know the father's history and concerns you have or may have had should lead you in the right direction.


I know that your heart is very hurt by what your son is saying. It is very upsetting for parents who are in the situation you face. The other responses to your question did not seem helpful to me, so I am answering your question differently.

This situation has come up about five or seven times in my 18 years of practicing family law and it has been hard for every parent left behind. Here is what I have told my clients -

Unless you have good reason to think that the other parent is going to be actively harmful to your child, you would be very wise to stop and think hard before you spend money and energy trying to force your 16 year old to stay with you. Even if you win the initial battles, it is very likely that you will lose the war. Forcing a teen to live with you is a ticket to misery for you and for your son. You need to realize that you have had many years to invest in your son's mind and attitudes and you have done the best you could to raise him with the right values. If his father does not share those values, your son is going to choose, regardless of what you want, what values he will live by in the long run. Yes, lawyers can make a lot of money on these fights. No, it is almost never a good idea.

If you meet with a very experienced family law attorney where you live, they will be able to give you better advice because they will be able to ask you questions sufficient to give you more specific guidance. You may be able to put certain protections in place and you do need a lawyer's help, regardless of which decisions you make at this point.

To get help finding the right lawyer to help you, contact my company, Advantage Denton. We find the right lawyer for you - and save you money on your first interview. Please visit our web site at



My 16 year old son went to visit his dad is Las Vegas (I'm in Wa state) and refused to give him back. I have full custody and he has NO visitation rights. He also convinced my son to tell me he's not coming home. I contacted many courts who all said this is a civil matter! My sister was a 911 dispatcher and said that is BS. That I needed to report my son as a runaway in WA state. I did this, called the county he was in and spoke to the Sergeant on duty and she asked me if I had custody and a parenting plan. I told her yes and I could fax them to her in 15 minutes. 45 minutes she called me and told me she had him and he would be waiting for me in the Las Vegas Juvenal Hall. I flew to Las Vegas the next day and brought my son home:) Today my son is 19 years old and a sophomore at Eastern Washington University and tell me he is VERY happy I came and got him and made him come home:) I hope this helps anyone in the same situation. Stacie S.

Melissa Marie Denton

Melissa Marie Denton


Stacie, I am so glad that you have a happy ending to your story. It is very true that it is possible to override the teen and the other parent. Each situation is different and I can't give a generic answer that is right for everyone. Best wishes for you and your son.


I've heard our Washington judges say that "Kids vote with their feet" meaning that, if the boy wants to go live with dad, he'll make it happen some how. However, if you have a prior order that allows NO residential time to the father, then father will have to have the order modified. The court will try to decide what home will be in the boy's "best interest". If you live a normal life and you're not a druggie or alcoholic/mental case, the dad's fight will be uphill for him.

However, at 16 your son can ask to speak with the judge. Most judges will NOT allow this - kids are left out of custody discussions and battles - they really tend to break up the family and it's never fair to put a child in the middle of warring adults.

I'd sit and wait, see if father tries to "modify" the Order you have. If he does, I'd get a lawyer really quick. Good luck.


You live in Washington and I practice in Seattle, so I have a solid answer for you.

Your son cannot change the custody order that is now in place. However, the law allows the court to "listen" to your son for his preferences. But, not too many judges do that - it puts the kids in the middle of the fight and it would kill one parent's relationship with the child.

I don't know WHY your child wants to live with dad; you need to find that out. It's probably not a really solid reason (maybe his girlfriend lives closer to that house?).

You need to find out that WHY and take action to bury whatever that is. Show your son that the relocation won't help him out. Let him know that if your ex-husband files an action to modify custody, that you'll fight it.

Another point to remember. What is father's life/home like? Is her a neglectful parent, alcoholic, druggie? What are his bad points? Play those up to the court if you get that far.

Good luck!

Child custody topics

Recommended articles about Child custody

What others are asking

Can't find what you're looking for?

Post a free question on our public forum.

Ask a Question

- or -

Search for lawyers by reviews and ratings.

Find a Lawyer