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

Note: The DearEsq free 'ask a lawyer' site is offered as a free informational service to the public and is not intended as legal advice. Laws vary from state-to-state, and in addition every situation is unique, and relevant facts may not be known. The answer to the question posed below may not apply to in your state or to your situation. For legal advice in your state and your situation you should consult with an attorney in your state who is familiar with the rules and laws in your state.

“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?”

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.