Despite how a child may view a visitation agreement, they have no legal right to refuse to participate in it. Rarely is it that everyone is completely satisfied with a visitation agreement, especially the children who must comply with any time-sharing agreement approved by the court.
That’s not to say that children have no agency in this process. Under certain circumstances, a child’s preference can be taken into account while the court establishes visitation and custody orders. The court is primarily concerned with ruling in the child’s best interests, and sometimes that means listening to what they have to say.
Children Can’t Legally Refuse Visitation
Florida law presumes that children benefit from having frequent and continuing contact with both of their parents after a separation or divorce. Unless there is a history of domestic violence, substance abuse, or another reason the court believes it should limit a parent’s time-sharing, a judge will order agreements that allow children to spend as much time as possible with both parents.
Because children are legally minors, they have no legal right to intervene in this process or refuse to participate in an established time-sharing agreement.
When Children Can Have a Voice in Court
Some states have established ages (typically 14 or older) at which a judge can hear a child’s testimony and take it into account when deciding custody and visitation orders.
Florida has no defined age for a child to testify, but sometimes allows them to do so. Typically, a judge will only hear a child’s testimony when the child is old enough to have developed a matured opinion on their time-sharing preference. After hearing what the child has to say, the judge can take it into account or not before deciding in the child’s best interest.
Parental Alienation Can Motivate Visitation Refusal
Parental alienation is a situation in which one parent attempts to “turn” their child’s favor against their other parent. This issue can arise in particularly contentious disputes when one or both spouses seek to harm their child’s relationship with the other parent.
Parental alienation is a serious problem that can drive a child’s refusal to participate in visitation. If the custodial parent has led the child to believe their other parent was solely responsible for the divorce, for example, this can irreparably damage the parent-child relationship.
If someone suspects parental alienation is occurring during or after their divorce, they can file a petition with the court to modify time-sharing agreements.
Helping Clients Navigate Family Law Disputes
When you need help ensuring you are fairly treated during a family law dispute, Tinny, Meyer & Piccarreto, P.A. can help. Our experienced team of attorneys has the experience and skill necessary to support our clients when they must face difficult family law matters.
For more information about our representation, contact us today to schedule your initial consultation.