Custody decisions in New Jersey are made based on what is in the best interest of your child. The court examines several factors when making this determination. One of these factors is the wishes of your child.
While this factor is given more weight as your child grows older and can more clearly articulate their custody preferences, your child’s wishes remain only one of several factors. Therefore, a custody decision is never truly up to your child.
If you have a custody schedule, you know that it must be strictly followed. But what happens if as your child gets older, they simply refuse to see the other parent?
Encourage a relationship with the other parent
This puts you in an extremely tough position. You can do everything possible to follow your custody schedule, encouraging your child to maintain a relationship with the other parent, and they may still refuse.
Some children even resort to extreme measures to avoid the other parent, such as running away after they are dropped off. This can expose you to potential court penalties for not complying with your court order when the situation is largely out of your control.
Communicate with your child and the other parent about the problem
Talk with your child and try to learn the specific reasons they do not want to see the other parent. Listen to them and continue to encourage them to spend time with the other parent.
The exception to this is if your child tells you they are being abused or neglected by the other parent and has evidence to prove this. You should then seek court intervention through an emergency custody petition immediately.
Tell the other parent what is happening. Stress to them that you are not the one preventing them from seeing their child but are doing everything possible to follow your custody schedule.
Work together to develop solutions
You and your co-parent should work together to address the situation. Try small things, like talking positively about each other and letting your child know you are always there if they need you.
After talking with your child, you might conclude that your custody schedule should be changed. However, remember that you must continue to follow your current custody order unless and until a new order is in place.