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Can my 14-year-old refuse to go to her father?

Alexandria, VA |

I share 50/50 joint custody of my children with their father. None of the children want to be with him; in fact, they wanted to testify at the custody hearing, but it was deemed a "bad idea". My eldest, who is 14, is now flat-out refusing to go when it's her time. So far, I have managed to talk her into going; however, I was wondering at what age she can just refuse without my getting in trouble? He has threatened me with police action if I "interfere", so I know the police will be called. I have asked about going back to court to revise the order but have been told there's not "enough reason" to do so. He lives in the marital home, has a steady job, and is charming. I live in an apartment, was a stay-at-home mom who just returned to work, and am extremely frustrated with the system.

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Attorney answers 1


Generally speaking, a child doesn't have the legal discretion to determine whether or not to participate in a scheduled visitation with the noncustodial parent. Sure, a judge may decide to ask for their input once they reach a certain age (the rule of sevens says ages 0-7 are presumptively incapable of being reliable witnesses; 7-14 are rebuttably capable; and 14-17 are presumed capable). Oftentimes this will occur in camera - that is in a judge's chambers, or office - because it is deemed less traumatizing for a child than testifying or being questioned in open court. The latter may have been the reason that the judge you had before decided it was a "bad idea." If your daughter actually bodily refuses to go with dad or runs away on the way to or from or while at dad's place, then you have cause to call the authorities to make her comply. It's a lose-lose situation to force a child to have time with a parent when they don't want to, but the problem is they are not legally old enough to make such decisions themselves. Best of luck to you.

This post should not be construed as formal legal advice or the formation of a lawyer/client relationship.<br /> <a href="" target="_blank">Joan M. Bundy, Attorney at Law, Casa Grande, Arizona</a>&nbsp;|&nbsp;

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