My fourteen year old daughter is responsible and wonderful young lady. For awhile now she has been coming home to my house stating she does not want to go to her fathers. I have always tried to validate her feelings, but emphasize the importance of her relationship with her father. I have suggested that she speak with him about her feelings. She replies if she tries to speak to him, he will yell at her, ground her, or say he is too busy. She has been in tears since Sunday not wanting to go to her father's tonight and discussing all the reasons she doesn't want too. This morning she threatened if I make her go she will run away. She wants me to email him and tell him all the reasons she doesn't want to go. I don't know what to do. I don't want to be in contempt, but I can't make her.
Family Law Attorney
You are in a very touchy situation. You could be held in contempt of court for not complying with the parenting plan, as crazy as that may seem. There was a major case in WA a number of years ago in which a parent was held in contempt (the Rideout Case) for not doing everything in their power to make the child go with the other parent on their scheduled time. Definitely seek local counsel immediately on this and document your efforts to try to have her return.
This post is not meant to be legal advice for a specific situation. Additionally, it does not constitute an attorney client relationship. It is always recommended that you consult with the attorney of your choice before taking action which can affect your legal rights.
Divorce / Separation Lawyer
Mr. Aronoff's answer is correct, but your daughter's situation is not hopeless. While there is no magic age where children get to decide for themselves, a 14-year old who is threatening to run away from her father's must be taken seriously. You really should contact an attorney in your area.
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Family Law Attorney
You are definitely caught between a rock and a hard place. This is because parenting plans are between parents and then with the court if the parents are at odds. A child should not dictate what occurs, and there is always some danger that the child of divorced parents may have learned to manipulate certain situations. This is not unusual nor is it an unnatural response for children of divorce. A parent always needs to be available to the children when they express concerns, and do a bit of reality testing to see where the underlying reaction is coming from, but parents are bound by the parenting plan to facilitate visition. If an issue has surfaced since the entry of the last parenting plan that warrants a modification then the court expects the parties to utilize this procedure rather than take matters into their own hands. If the child does not go her father's for visitation, the other party could file a motion for contempt against you. Cases on this issue provide as follows:
While a parent should not be punished for the actions of a truly recalcitrant child, punishment is appropriate when the parent is the source of the child’s attitude or fails to overcome the child’s recalcitrance when, considering the child’s age and maturity, it is within that parent’s power to do so. Where a child resists court-ordered visitation and where the evidence establishes that the parent primarily responsible for the care of the child either contributes to the child’s attitude or fails to make reasonable efforts to require the child to comply with the parenting plan, such parent may be deemed to have acted in ‘bad faith’ for purposes of finding contempt under RCW 26.09.160(1). Rideout v. Rideout, 150 Wn.2d 337, 77 P.3d 1174 (2003); In re Marriage of Farr, 87 Wn. App. 177, 940 P.2d 679 (1997), review denied, 134 Wn.2d 1014 (1998); In re Marriage of James, 79 Wn. App. 436, 445, 903 P.2d 470 (1995).
You might want to consult these cases when determining how you plan to navigate this issue. You should also consult with an attorney. During the consultation (some of which are free for the first 1/2 or hour), you will be able to share with the attorney the specific facts of your case, which you should discuss over the internt, and will be able to give you some guideance and to offer you some recommendations.
Karen C. Skantze practices in the State of Washington. The response is limited to her understanding of law in the jurisdiction in which she practices and not to any other jurisdiction. No response to any posted inquiry shall constitute legal advice, nor the existence of an attorney/client relationship.