Teenagers and Visitation

Teenagers. They can be moody, grumpy, tired and overall occupied in their teenage world. One minute they are your best friend and the next you are their worst enemy. As amazing and rewarding as being a parent is, raising teenagers and adolescents can sometimes be tough.

These difficulties are often times even greater for separated parents. When parents no longer live in the same home, there is an added complication of having children move from home to home to spend time with their parents. Sometimes, teenagers just don’t want to take the time to visit mom or dad, not because of anything either parent has done, but because they are teenagers and occupied with their own interests. You might say, “well can’t I get an order forcing my child to come to my home?” The answer is tricky and often times, no. One might assume that a parent can order their teenager to visit mom/dad because the “child” is not yet 18 years of age and therefore not legally an adult. While it is true that a person is not legally an adult until reaching age 18, for purposes of visitation the Court does not strictly look at age.

The case of Coursey v. Super. Ct. (1987) 195 Cal.App.3d 147 provides insight into how the Court handles visitation orders when teenagers are involved. In Coursey the parties had an order granting father visitation with the parties’ 14 year old daughter. Unfortunately, visitation was not occurring because the parties’ daughter “L” did not wish to visit her father. Father filed a motion for contempt stating that mother had failed to force the child to visit with father according to the current Court orders. The trial Court found mother guilty of contempt. However, the Court of Appeal overturned the trial court’s decision and found that there was a lack of evidence demonstrating that mother had the ability to force “L” to visit with her dad. Specifically, the Court stated “to be held in contempt, the accused must have the ability to render compliance with the order.” The Court held that they had been provided no law holding that a 14-year old child is under the absolute control of a parent. In sum, the Court recognized what all parents know to be true, it is very difficult to convince teenagers to do anything they do not want to do.

As frustrating as this can be for parents, especially the “non-custodial” parent, it is an important lesson. Always obtain and enforce visitation orders before it is too late and keep in mind that at a certain point enforcing existing visitation orders can be difficult. There are many parents who leave visitation and custody undecided and think they will “figure it out” only to be left with no recourse when the child is a teenager who doesn’t want to be forced to visit. Courts are very unlikely to set in place visitation orders that they do not believe are going to be enforced or followed due to the child’s age.

Here at Mello & Pickering we can help you in your custody and visitation case. With our combined 28 years of experience, we can help ensure that your best interests and those of your child(ren) are protected.