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Can My Child Refuse Parental Visitation?


Divorce is already an emotionally complicated issue, but when you add the welfare of children into the mix, it becomes legally complicated. If the child’s parents are ending their marriage on bad terms, then it’s unlikely they will be able to make a fair and equitable parenting plan without substantial help. When parents can’t create their time-sharing and custody plan, they leave the judge with the responsibility. Each parent will have the chance to explain their position to the judge. When these situations arise, the child’s wishes can become very important to the outcome.

At What Age Can My Child Refuse Visitation?

According to 23 Pa. Cons. Stat. Ann. § 5322 (a), the state of Pennsylvania defines a child as any unemancipated person under 18, and until a child reaches legal adulthood, their opinion matters when it comes to issues like custody, but the court will make final determinations. Once the court makes a determination regarding custody, a parent is obligated to comply or face contempt of court. With that said, a parent is not obligated to force a child to visit the other parent. If the child is actively refusing to comply or refuses to accept visitation terms, the custodial parent needs to work with their ex-partner to find a solution. While this is an extreme example, it indicates how influential a child can be during the custody conversation.

Custody Decisions Process in Pennsylvania

In Pennsylvania, parents can be award physical and legal custody of their minor children. Physical custody applies to the primary physical residence of a child. Physical custody usually applies to where the child will live and how much of their time will be spent in that residence. Legal custody applies to a parent’s legal rights to make important decisions for the minor child. Choices regarding education, medical care, and religion would fall under the auspice of legal custody. Parents can be awarded sole or joint legal and physical custody. According to 23 Pa. Cons. Stat. Ann. § 5323, parents who share legal custody will make a decision regarding their child’s wellbeing as a team, and if one parent has sole legal custody, they make all the child’s decisions. Joint physical custody means parents will share time with the minor child, and the judge will assign a physical custodian, which is the parent with the larger percentage of time with the child.

Do Children Have to Testify About Their Custodial Preferences in Court?

The presiding judge will determine whether your child meets the age and maturity requirements to be interviewed by the court. The judge will be interested in whether the child can express a reasonable and mature opinion based on facts. Children are usually allowed to give their testimony away from the courtroom in an informal setting, like the judge’s chambers. For this reason, the judge doesn’t require open court testimony. The court recognizes that children love both parents and may have difficulty expressing their opinion with both parents watching for fear they’ll disappoint the parent not chosen. While parents aren’t allowed in chambers during testimony, the parents’ lawyers will be present to ask any questions they deem necessary, and the court reporter will be present to record all testimony for the record. The Philadelphia child custody lawyers at William Kirby Law can help you review your case's details and help formulate a strategy. Call us at (215) 515-9901 to schedule a consultation today.