When Can a Child Decide Not to See the Other Parent?

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“My 13 year old step-son has an abusive father. My step-son does not want to see him anymore and is afraid of him as well. His mother and myself want to know if the child has the right to decide if he has to see that parent?”

[NOTE: Articles and answers on DearEsq., while written and published by lawyers, do not constitute legal advice, and no attorney-client relationship is formed by your reading of this information. You should always consult with an attorney for any legal situations.]

This is a common misconception in family law. In most, if not all, states a child does not have a right to decide with which parent he or she will live, or if they can see them or not, at any age. This is in large part because it sets the child and existing family system up for too many potential problems. If the court does not concede to the child’s wishes, the child feels unheard and as if their wishes and feelings don’t matter. If the court does concede to the child’s wishes, then the child may come to feel an unwarranted sense of power and control over their families.

That said, and particularly as children get older, the court-appointed social worker or family services worker may interview a child in order to get their input (that is different from allowing them to make the decision), and at what age this may occur, or even whether it will occur, is completely up to the local rules of that county, or even that particular courthouse or agency.

With the situation you describe, however, if your step-son’s father is truly abusive, his mother (your wife) can petition the court to modify the timeshare agreement to either require that all visits with his father be supervised by a neutral third party or, if the situation warrants it, to cut them off altogether.

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Author: Anne P. Mitchell, Esq.

Anne P. Mitchell, Esq. is a noted family law expert, Internet law expert, and Professor of Law at Lincoln Law School of San Jose. She is the author of "Surviving Divorce: the Single Father's Guide" and "The Email Deliverability Handbook"

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