At what age can a child opt out of visitation with the non-custodial parent?

My daughter is 15 and wants to decrease her visitation with her father during the school year. He lives more than 150 miles away and she no longer wants to travel every other weekend for visitation with him. It is too disruptive for her studies and school activities, including athletics. Can she decide this legally?

Asked on November 30, 2011 under Family Law, Wyoming

Answers:

M.D., Member, California and New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 9 years ago | Contributor

Technically, no she cannot decide this. There is a court order in effect and a visitation order can only be modified by the court. However, as a practical matter, you cannot physically force a 15 year old girl to visit with her father if she doesn’t want to. Even if you threatened her with punishment or restricting her freedom, it is not likely to get her to want to go. As you pointed out, a teenager most likely would rather be with their friends or engaging in sports activities rather than being with a parent. 
 
In recognition of this fact, courts have typically tended to hold the teenagers responsible for their behavior with respect to visitation, not the custodial parent. A court is unlikely to find the parent in contempt for failing to comply with a visitation order. Therefore, this leaves the non-custodial parent of a rebellious teenager largely without a remedy for enforcement of such an order. Also, if this matter does go to court, if it can be shown that your daughter's grades are/will suffer, this will lend more support for at least reduction of visitation (but probably not an outright elimination of it).
 
At this point, you should consult directly with a divorce attorney in your area. They can best advise at to what can be done.

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