Parenting Time Refusal by a Child: Strategies for the Parent Without the Majority of the Parenting Time

Author 
P. André Katz and Amanda Clayman

In the last blog, we provided guidance to a parent with the majority of parenting time seeking advice on how to facilitate and encourage parenting time for their child with the other parent. In that blog, we presumed good will and efforts by the parent with the majority of the parenting time to effectuate the parenting schedule and agreement. But what should a parent do if their child does not want to come to their house for parenting time and the parent with the majority of the parenting time does not assist in facilitating the time- or even worse actively encourages the child not to participate in parenting time?

Again, you should always consult an attorney about your specific situation, but the below are some general pointers:

First, keep records or your efforts, communications, and correspondence with the other parent.

Second, review your parenting agreement. Your agreement most likely provides for mediation. It could be a good idea to request mediation in order to have an opportunity to understand better what is transpiring and to perhaps reach some agreements with the other parent about how parenting time can be facilitated. It is also important to keep an open mind in mediation--perhaps the schedule no longer works for your teenager? Perhaps some slight modifications to the schedule will actually work better for everyone? Perhaps some therapy could be agreed upon for you and your child?

Third, you could request that the court order individual or family counseling if no agreement can be reached. Specifically, section 607.6 of the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act, 750 ILCS 5/607.6 provides in relevant part as follows:

(a) The court may order individual counseling for the child, family counseling for one or more of the parties and the child, or parental education for one or more of the parties, if it finds one or more of the following:

(1) both parents or all parties agree to the order;

(2) the child’s physical health is endangered or that the child’s emotional development is impaired;

(3) abuse of allocated parenting time under Section 607.5 has occurred; or

(4) one or both of the parties have violated the allocation judgment with regard to conduct affecting or in the presence of the child.

Thus, if the schedule is not being facilitated, counseling could be ordered to assist in ensuring the schedule is followed and the child has parenting time with both parents.

Fourth, further court assistance can be sought.  A petition can be brought pursuant to Section 607.5 of the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act, 750 ILCS 5/607.5, entitled “abuse of allocated parenting time.” The court is empowered with numerous options to enforce a parenting time schedule. The court can order anything from parenting classes and counseling to the payment of fines, and fees. And additional penalties are available to the court including suspension of a drivers’ license, sentencing a party to imprisonment, and the imposition of additional fines in egregious situations where the court finds that the failure to comply with the parenting time order was “parenting time abuse.”

Finally, it is important to be proactive and to take steps to remedy and refusal by a child to be with you during your parenting time. In fact, section 610.5 of the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act, 750 ILCS 5/610.5, provides essentially that a modified schedule can become permanent when:

(e) The court may modify a parenting plan or allocation judgment without a showing of changed circumstances if (i) the modification is in the child’s best interests; and (ii) any of the following are proven as to the modification:

(1) the modification reflects the actual arrangement under which the child has been receiving care, without parental objection, for the 6 months preceding the filing of the petition for modification, provided that the arrangement is not the result of a parent’s acquiescence resulting from circumstances that negated the parent’s ability to give meaningful consent…

Exercising time with your child is essential to maintaining a relationship. If your child is refusing and the other parent is not successfully encouraging and requiring the time, it is necessary that you take immediate action to work to remedy the situation. If possible, working directly with the other parent is ideal; however, the court can and will assist as needed.