Can a teenager refuse to spend time with one parent post-divorce?

On Behalf of | May 14, 2023 | Child Custody

Teenagers are notorious for being emotionally volatile and particularly difficult for their parents to manage. When a family compounds an already tumultuous time in a young adult’s life with the external stress of parental divorce, what results is often severe relationship struggles.

Children of all ages may lash out at their parents during difficult times in their lives, and teenagers are often intelligent enough to do so very effectively. They are also more likely to focus their anger externally during a divorce. For example, young adults are more likely than their younger siblings to blame one parent for a divorce and to declare that they do not want to interact with the parent whom they blame for the divorce.

It hurts to be on the receiving end of that vitriol, and parents may worry that they could lose their relationship with their child. Can teenagers subject to a custody order voluntarily sever their relationship with one of their parents while they are still minors?

Children don’t have the final say in custody matters

Virginia family law judges always need to do what would be in the best interests of the children in a family. While that standard may seem subjective to some people, a judge generally recognizes how important a child’s relationship with both parents will be as they mature.

Even when there are temporary disruptions to that relationship, judges will typically want to see both parents continue to spend time with the children regularly. During custody litigation, including the divorce process and in any modification hearing, mature teenagers can sometimes make their preferences known. However, their wishes will not necessarily dictate how the parents share time with the children in the family. Even when a young adult is angry at one parent and would prefer not to spend time with them, the courts will typically expect that both parents spend time with the children and support the other’s right to do so.

Teenagers, like their parents, will need to do their best to follow the terms of a custody order. In some cases, a parent who does not encourage a reticent teenager to spend time with their other parent could potentially be responsible for their failure to uphold that custody order. Seeking legal guidance to better understand what rules apply to complicated Virginia custody scenarios can help families to handle co-parenting challenges more effectively.



FindLaw Network