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Can my 7 year old child decide that she doesn't want to go with her dad during his visitation period

Houston, TX |
Attorney answers 8


You would have to consult a local attorney to know for sure. I can say that in Arizona, you would have to send her with her father. She may not want to go to school tomorrow, are you going to send her there? If there is a specific reason for her not wanting to go, you should try to find out. It's common for kids to feel torn when they go from one parent to the other and feel that they are not loyal to the parent that they are leaving. If she is only concerned that she is going to miss you, reassure you that you will miss her, too, but that daddy has been missing her for a while now and that he is looking forward to spending time with her. It's also likely that she is acting the same way when she leaves daddy's house.


Yes, your daughter has to go with dad. You have to have her ready to go at the time stated in your court order (decree). Your daughter can tell dad she doesn't want to go. But it is up to dad.

Often children tell parents what they think the parent wants to hear. She may think you don't want her to go, so she tells you that.

If, however, she is telling you she doesn't want to go because dad leaves her by herself, is verbally or physically abusive to her, uses alcohol to excess or drugs, you need to consult an attorney to change the visitation order. Courts want children to be safe and most Houston courts would not like any of those scenarios and would restrict visitation to a supervised setting.


I am a Washington and Oregon licensed attorney. In these states, a child does not get to decide this. In some circumstances in the states I practice in, a custodial/primary parent can be held in contempt for not requiring the child to go on the visit.

Your question doesn't provide me with enough information about why your daughter does not want to visit. The reason could be as simply as she is having an adjustment problem that can be readily solved with two parents working together to solve it. Or it could be more complicated than that, and involve her feelings of safety and security. Maybe you don't even know what the true reason is, because children of that age (as you well know, being a mother an all) may not be able to articulate what's happening in a way that an adult can readily understand.

So first, you should consult with your child's father about this situation to try to problem-solve it together. If you don't think you can do this, I'd recommend you engage with a mediator in your area to help you and your child's father talk about these difficult issues. The mediator should be one who specializes in conflict resolution and understanding family law/parenting/child development issues. This person will probably NOT be a lawyer, though that is not always the case of course. If you don't think your child's father would agree to mediate, then you investigate mediators yourself and call them to ask them their ideas about how to engage your child's father in this process. Don't let your child's father's reluctance to engage in this process stop you from researching it and learning about ways to help him feel comfortable and safe about mediating issues with you.

Another idea may be to begin counseling for your child. Your court order may require joint decision-making on this issue, and/or may require notice to your child's father of this. So check your orders and the current state of the law in Texas before moving forward with this idea. This idea can also be mediated if you are concerned about whether your child's father will agree to this or not.

The issue is not going to go away on its own - without the help of professionals - and the sooner you and your child's father begin a dialogue about this the better.

Good luck.
Nancy Nellor Retsinas


Most courts look to the best interests of the child. If there is a legitimate reason for her attitude towards the father, then maybe. However, if it is simply a situation where dad makes her do her homework before dessert, then the answer is likely yes.


First of all, allow me to volunteer that each parent should encourage meaningful and regular contact with the other parent of a child. I hope that your 7 y.o. does not express this feeling because of any alienation that you may be consciously or subconsciously expressing to her. If you (aid in) prevent(ing) the court-ordered visitation to your (ex-)spouse, then you will probably be asked to be found in Contempt by the Father in Court. It is likely that the Court will not take into account a 7 y.o.'s preference, although each state has different statutory and case law as to what age and maturity level entitles/requires a court to listen to a child's point of view regarding custody preferences. Each judge has different procedures as to whether he or she will hear fromthe child in court or in chambers, with the attorneys and/or parties present, and whether the child's position is even relevant. For example, in PA, I have had a Judge talk to a 6 year old boy in a Relocation case and a different Judge refuse to meet with a 14 year old boy in a Visitation case.


I would suggest you contact a Texas family law attorney. Frye & Cantu, PLLC , Patricia Cantu can provide some guidance. She may be reached at 2990 Richmond Ave., Suite 400, Houston, TX 77098; Tel: 713-227-1717, Fax: 713-522-2610.


The short answer in Washington State is that "YES" your daughter MUST GO VISIT WITH FATHER. Unless there is something going on, making father's home or environment something that will negatively impact your child. That could be that the father is a druggie/alcoholic/mental patient.

Court's decide what's in the child's best interest. To modify an existing parenting plan (in Washignton) your ex-huband must prove that your home, or your parenting style, are a negative for the chil (that you're a druggie/alcoholic/mental patient). That means, ex-husband must prove to the court that you are an "unfit mother".

Good luck.


The short answer is "Yes!". Generally, courts follow the legislative mandate in Texas that both parents should be involved in lives of their children.

You can actually cloud your own custody by failing to show good "co-parenting" skills, which can include playing ping-pong with your child's feelings about their other parent. Some parents exert really unconscionable influence on their child, disaffecting them from their other parent. Court take a very dim view of that kind of conduct.

Both parents in this kind of situation should be engaging with the child in some effective counseling.

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