Q: If my teen decided she no longer wants to go to her father's, do I have to make her?
I have sole custody and her father has a visitation order. She is 14 and we live in the state of Virginia.
Unjustifiably withholding visitation can result in a change of primary physical custody of a child. A custodial parent must do everything within his or her power and authority to allow visitation to occur, absent some credible evidence of family abuse which would justify a modification of a visitation order. Judges are sensitive to allegations of parental alienation, when one parent intentionally alienates the child from the other parent. Family law judges allow expect a certain level of co-parenting, in the best interests of the child, however distasteful that may be to a parent. Parents must act like adults and not use the child as a pawn in some ongoing conflict between themselves.
If there are legitimate reasons to discontinue current court-ordered visitation, a party should file a motion to modify visitation and expect to prove both (1) a material change in circumstances justifying a change in visitation, and how, (2) considering that material change, a change in visitation would be in the best interests of the child. While a child's preference in custody or visitation is a factor, and may be heard by the judge from an older child of sufficient intelligence and maturity, many in the family law system are opposed to such an expression of preference.
Anyone facing a custody or visitation dispute should consult with an experienced Virginia family law lawyer.
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