Skip to main content

Can a Custodial parent leave the visitation schedule up to a 13 yr old child and not encourage visitation?

Worcester, MA |

Very involved non-custodial dad dealing w/ normal teen behavior in 13 yr old daughter. Child has "only-child syndrome" and withholds her visits at a whim. Custodial mom has told dad that she "will not force the child to visit - it's up to the child." Both mom & child are trying to dictate what activity the dad/child do during visit or child won't go. No specific visit schedule in Decree, just "as agreed upon". Latest reason for not coming on Sunday was "unless it was going to be 1-on1 time", child refused to go. Father has dinner once a week/every week alone with child when child will come. Mutually agreed schedule for last 10 yrs has been 2 evenings a week, and overnight Sat into day Sun. Custodial mom feels dad is not listening to child and will not support him.

+ Read More

Attorney answers 4


Since there is nothing in the current order that specifies when visitation should occur your only option is too consider a Modification. That would require showing of a substantial and material change in circumstances. In this case, that change might be that mother and daughter are witholding visitation. The issue for you, however, is whether you want to go through a court matter to force your daughter to maintain regulsar visits with you, if in fact, she doesn't want to. Maybe family counseling with her might help address some issues which are affecting your relationship. Otherwise court is the place to seek a new order. Good luck.

The above comments are general in nature and not intended to be legal advise nor create an attorney/client relationship. You should seek the advise of attorney working for you about all the facts of your case before taking an action.


It gets touchy the older the child gets. Some judges will not force a child, but other judges will express concern that a child is dictating what will be happening. The problem is when one pushes a teenager a teenage just pushes back.

One way of dealing with this is to have the mother, father and child engage a family therapist. The child should also have an individual therapist. The individual therapist can interface with the family therapist without breaching privilege.

When the situation occurs that you describe it is often not just one parent but a combination of what all parties are doing or not doing that is having an impact and the sooner this is addressed the more likely the parent/child relationship can be brought back on track.


Legally, you likely have ground for a Complaint for Modification based solely on the passage of time, and you might have grounds for a contempt since parents have an implied duty to support the child's relationship with the other parent.


It sounds like you and Mom have a well-above average co-parenting relationship. This is based on the fact that you have been able to be and remain a very involved co-parent, and the fact that from the way you wrote things, you and Mom have been able to work out co-parenting with little court guidance for a decade. That's a very impressive track record--don't throw it out the window now!

Your frustration is understandable, but I bet that Mom and your daughter could provide a compelling case about their own frustrations. Teenage girls might have only child syndrome, or just be trying to manipulate their parents--or they might have a real concern that they just don't have the skills to communicate in a way that makes sense to you. It might be worthwhile to invest in a session with a family counselor and see if there is a way to find a middle ground so you can keep your relationship with your daughter and your co-parent on track. Now is not the time to make a girl feel like spending time with her dad is an inescapable obligation--it's only going to get harder to force her to show up as she gets older and more autonomous.

If you and Mom are still at odds after that, it's worth a meeting with a mediator.


It is the duty of the parents to foster a loving relationship with the child. The mother's "encouragement" of non-visitation is technically a violation of the Decree, if not the letter of the agreement certainly the spirit. But I have to agree with Attorney Marino, while you may have the right to bring an action for modification of the visitation schedule, you might want to consider family counseling or a less corrosive method to bring your daughter around to want to visit with you.

This answer is provided for informational purposes only and it is not intended as legal advice. Additionally, this answer does not create an attorney-client relationship. If you wish to obtain legal advice specific to your case, please consult with a local attorney

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