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Does my 15 year old son have the right to refuse to go to his dads every other week?

Colville, WA |

My 15 yr old son wants the right to refuse to go to his dads every other week some times. Lately his father has had him on an emotional roller coaster. Even told my son that he needed to decide if he was his father or not, and his dad even said maybe he should just go kill himself. What kind of a father would say such a thing. His father was angry at him because he chose not to go to his house, due to some special plans my son had. This rarely happens that he gets the chance to do something special. His dad gives him the guilt trip every time, and tells my son that he doesnt love his dad. My son gets so stressed and doesnt want to go up there. I will not force him to do so. His father will call here 8 to 10 times a day demanding to speak to him. I wont even answer my phone any more, because I get chest pains when I talk to him. He will call here at 6:00 in the morning , and as late as 10:30 at night. He is verbally abusive (one of the reasons I devorced him, besides infidelity). The woman he lives with (the one he was having an affair with, now his fiance') just went through alcohol treatment center (mandontory after car accident). Just giving you a little insight what my son has been going through at his dads. So its not a healthy invironment for my son. Do I have the right to not force him to go?? Recently my brother (my sons favorite uncle) underwent a kidney transplant, and my son wanted to be there with me at the hospital. His father flipped out because it was his turn for visitation. But my son went with me. So the following week his dad demanded that he come up there, and my son told him that he had other plans. I am at a loss what to do. Also, my sons child support (set in the year 2000) is only $272.50. Its not nearly enough to help feed and clothe a 15 year old boy. Am I out of line for needing more child support? How do I go about getting it changed to? I guess the most important question is "does my son have the right to have a choice to go to his dads on scheduled visitations?? Thank you so much for letting me ask you these questions. I appreciate what you do for people like me.

Kathy [email address removed]

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Attorney answers 4


I recommend that you speak to an experienced family law attorney about filing a motion to modify custody, visitation, and support arrangements. Your son is a minor and he does not have the right to negotiate his own custody decisions. The guardian ad litem, and the mediator, may believe that the current difficulties between your son and your ex merit a new arrangement.


I do not practice in Washington. However, the following is for educational purposes not legal advice. You need to contact a family law attorney in your area. Some will work out payments and will seek fees from the father as well. Your son has no right to refuse to go to visitation. You have no right to prevent him from going. HOWEVER, what you outline is a senario that no court will tolerate. The court will, most likely send you to a mediator or an evaluation to determine if what is happening is in the best interest of the child and it doesn't appear to be. Your son should be able to tell the mediator or evaluator his feelings. Children are not chattel; they do not belong to either parent. An attorney will file a motion for an increase in child support and a modification of visitation. Only a court's order can modify a previous order. Do you and your son a large favor: go see an attorney and get some help.



What if the mediator says its not in the teens intrest,but the judge still gives visitation? Can I appeal this?


No, 15 year old kids do not get to pick and choose what the court has ordered. But read the last two answers- the court can change support AND contact. Go see if the local Bar has referral list of free/ low cost consultations with a competent attorney. Sadly, support is tied to his income, so you'll never get all you deserve.


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.

The previous attorney posters have given you good information. Here are some more thoughts:

First, I'd recommend you engage with a mediator in your area to help you and your child's father talk about these difficult issues and develop some agreements and boundaries around your co-parenting. Mediation should also include your son, since he is 15, and although the law does not allow him to decide what his visitation schedule is, he should have the opportunity to express his wishes at this age.

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.

I find that attempting mediation as a prelude to litigation is a good idea - sometimes you can avoid litigation. And if not, then everyone has good information about everyone else's perspective, and this tends to narrow the scope of litigation and help everyone get right to the core of the issues to be resolved.

Good luck.
Nancy Nellor Retsinas