During a divorce or separation of parents, a custody determination is often one of the most stressful and emotional decisions that needs to be made. Even in situations where both parents are working together to create a parenting plan in their children’s interests, issues and disagreements can arise that complicate the process. Custody determinations can be made harder when the child refuses a proposed parenting plan or refuses to cooperate with a plan that is already a court order. Divorce and separation are rarely easy on a child, and they can react in many unpredictable ways. It can be hard to know what to do when a child refuses a custody or visitation schedule.

At What Age Can a Child Refuse Visitation or Custody?

In most Midwest states, there is no age that a child can refuse court-ordered visitation or custody. Once a child turns 18 or is emancipated, and is no longer a legal child, they can make their own decisions, including refusing a parenting plan. However, before a child turns 18, they cannot legally refuse to follow court orders regarding custody and visitation.

This doesn’t mean that a child always has no say in a parenting plan. Family courts in the Midwest will consider a child’s preferences on the matter when creating or approving a parenting plan. In states such as Missouri and Oklahoma, the court is more likely to consider the opinion of any child over the age of 12. In Kansas, Illinois, and Nebraska, there is no specific age that a child has to reach, but the court will consider the maturity level of the child. Any Midwest court is more likely to follow a child’s wishes the closer they are to 18.

The child’s wishes are not the only thing that the family court considers, and the court is never required to follow a child’s preference. The child’s interests take priority over the wishes of parents or children. If the child’s preferences conflict with their interests, the court will not adhere to the child’s preference.

Factors That Determine a Child’s Interest

The exact factors that a court uses to decide a child’s interests differ in each state and its courts. Some factors include:

  • The relationship between each parent and the child
  • The child’s age
  • The child’s basic requirements and unique needs
  • The fitness of each parent to provide for the child
  • The child’s connection to their school and community
  • The wishes of the child and each parent
  • The willingness of each parent to support the child’s continued relationship with the other parent
  • The ability of parents to cooperate in their child’s interests
  • Whether there is evidence of child neglect, child abuse, or domestic violence

Every family is unique, and the court will review a multitude of factors to decide a child’s interests.

What to Do When a Child Refuses Visitation or Custody

Even when a child isn’t legally able to refuse custody, this doesn’t often change the practical issue of getting a child to follow court orders when they don’t want to. There are several things one or both parents can do in these situations. These include:

  1. Talking with the child. There may be legitimate reasons why a child doesn’t want to see a parent. In some cases, a child may be suffering from parental alienation tactics. A child may also simply be having a difficult time.
  2. Creating a new parenting plan. A child’s needs or schedule may have changed over time, requiring a new schedule to enable visitation.
  3. Enforcing the court order. As a last option, a parent can go to the court to enforce the visitation or custody order.


Q: What Is the Visitation Law in Illinois?

A: There is no specific law or preference for visitation in Illinois. Child custody and visitation is made based on a child’s interests. The court decides the child’s interests based on several factors, such as the ability of each parent to care for a child and the child’s needs. If parents are able to work together to create a parenting plan, the court will likely approve the plan unless it is counter to the child’s interests. The court assumes that each parent is fit to have custody and visitation rights unless it can be proven that one or both parents are a danger to the child’s physical, moral, or mental health.

Q: When Can You Deny Visitation to the Noncustodial Parent in Oklahoma?

A: In most cases, a parent cannot legally deny their co-parent the visitation rights that were provided to that parent through a court order in Oklahoma. If the child is in immediate danger, a parent may be allowed to deny visitation. However, the parent must provide sufficient evidence that a child’s physical or emotional health is endangered by allowing visitation with the co-parent. The court may then decide to suspend the co-parent’s visitation rights.

Q: What Is the First Right of Refusal in Custody in Missouri?

A: A parenting plan in Missouri may include the right of refusal if parents wish to add it. This means that, when one parent needs child care for their child, they will first contact their co-parent. This is before requesting that other family members or a babysitter look after the children. A child custody attorney can help you determine if this is a beneficial provision to include in your parenting plan.

Q: How Long Does a Father Have to Be Absent to Lose His Rights in Kansas?

A: The Kansas family court may decide to terminate a father’s parental rights in some of the following situations:

  1. A father abandoned a child once knowing about the child’s birth.
  2. A father failed to provide support to the mother for six months prior to the child’s birth.
  3. A father made no reasonable effort to communicate with a child or support them after being aware of the child’s birth.

If a child is a newborn, the period of time that qualifies as abandonment may only be a couple of months, while the period of time may be several months to two years for an older child.

Q: What Is the Nebraska Parenting Act?

A: Under the Nebraska Parenting Act, parents in a child custody case involving minor children are required to take several steps before taking the custody case to trial. This includes:

  • Taking parenting educational courses that are approved by the court
  • Working to create a parenting plan together and submitting it to the court
  • Attempting mediation to create the parenting plan

Parents can only take the case to trial after these steps.

Contact Stange Law Firm

For experienced and compassionate child custody attorneys, contact Stange Law Firm.