Q How old do children need to be before they don't have to go see the other parent if they don't want to? My kids tell me they don't want to see their dad. Now that they're older, I'm thinking about honoring their wishes.
A It's seductive when a child starts to balk at going to their other parent's home. What divorced parents hear is that their child would rather stay with them, and they start to believe the child prefers them. But there might be more to the story.
When a child starts to complain, rather than saying something like, "Your time with your dad [or mom] is very important," it becomes, "I know you don't want to go, but it's only for a couple of days. You'll be home soon." At face value, that sounds like a parent trying to help a fussy kid put things into perspective -- but in actuality, it's openly trivializing the child's time with his or her other parent and singles out one "home" over the other.
The law regarding a child's "right" to choose which parent to live with varies considerably by state and jurisdiction.
There is no specific "age" when children can say with whom they want to live. In most cases, it's the reasons behind the desire to live with one parent or the other that matters more than the child's age.
We're not sure why a normally conscientious parent who wouldn't think twice about making their child do their chores or finish their homework, would consider letting the child do exactly what he or she wants to do when it comes to visiting their other parent.
A child has the right to be with both parents. Unless you believe the child is in danger, it's your obligation to abide by your custody agreement and support the other parent's parenting time.
As parents, of course, we always want to protect our kids, but there are agencies to help you. When you suspect a problem, call Child Protective Services or the police and ask them to intercede.
Jann Blackstone-Ford and her husband's ex-wife, Sharyl Jupe, are the authors of "Ex-Etiquette for Parents."